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YS’ Sam shares top tips for supporting someone in need

Posted on 12th Feb 2020

Sam Young joined Youth Solutions in January 2018 as the Health Promotion Coordinator, bringing to the charity and the role a broad wealth of experience and knowledge.

“My degree is in medical and health science,” Sam says, “and I have worked in youth health promotion for five years.”

Sam’s role is central to the key objectives of Youth Solutions – preventing and reducing drug and alcohol-related harm in young people. She helps prepare and delivers Youth Solutions core programs, with support from the rest of the program team:

  • ARTucation – an Aboriginal-specific program coupling drug and alcohol education with learnings of healthy expression through connection with culture, creative activities and/or sport;
  • DAIR (Drug and Alcohol Information and Resilience Skills) – a drug and alcohol health education program aimed at skill, resilience and knowledge development to prevent and reduce drug and alcohol-related harm;
  • PEEP (Peer Enrichment and Empowerment Project) – a youth training program whereby youth volunteers assist Youth Solutions to plan, deliver and evaluate activities for young people, specifically the SAFE Series seminars.

As she delivers these programs to young people in schools and community groups, Sam has become particularly astute around the warning signs of someone in need of support. She regularly sees or hears about situations of young people, aged between 12 and 25, who are going through a tough time.

“There might be high levels of stress, mental health issues or drug or alcohol problems,” Sam says. “I work with a lot of young people in local schools or community groups, and a lot of them are having problems with school, work, friends, family or peers.”

Sam says there are obvious warning signs that all is NOT OKAY with a young person, something she aims to help workshop participants to recognise in themselves and also their peers. Part of Youth Solutions’ work is upskilling young people and the people who support them to recognise those signs – usually behaviour that is out of character – and to try and be supportive. Some of those warning signs include:

  1. Change of behaviour: isolated; withdrawn or more social;
  2. Avoiding going home or not wanting to be there; missing school; missing work; not attending sport or social events;
  3. Not completing school work;
  4. Talking about or using drugs or drinking alcohol to a problematic level;
  5. Talking about feelings of being overwhelmed or down and acting differently;
  6. Avoiding topics of conversation.

“We remind young people that you can be a helpful or unhelpful friend,” Sam says.

“We practise scenarios and talk about the importance of asking your friend or the young person in your life if they are okay or if they want to talk about their concerns. These conversations are best done in a quiet or private place.

“We talk about the importance of being non-judgemental and showing your concern and understanding while helping the young person to comprehend the situation. Some practical ways to help a young person or a friend might be to help them find the right service, offering to help them make an appointment and offering to accompany them to the appointment.

“It’s also important to regularly check in with them, to let them know you haven’t forgotten them.”

Sam says Youth Solutions workshops also aim to reveal the unhelpful behaviour we can show when someone is going through a tough time

“It’s unhelpful to assume someone, particularly a young person, will sort things out without help – so you do nothing,” she said. “It’s also unhelpful to be angry, annoyed, judgemental or to give up. And it’s unhelpful to acknowledge there is a problem and never check in with the person again.”

And how to tackle the situation when someone shuns an offer of help? Sam suggests there are subtle ways of supporting someone who might be struggling.

“Make sure there’s no pressure, but if you know there’s something wrong then check in later. Don’t give up, just ease yourself into the role of being there and make sure you let them know that you are there for them whenever they feel ready.

“It is important for everybody to acknowledge that supporting a friend, peer or family member could be challenging, emotionally draining or even potentially dangerous at times. It is always important to practice self-care techniques and to put your own health, wellbeing and safety first. If you do not feel capable of supporting someone in need you should always reach out and ask for help. There are so many services and people that can help.

 “Youth Solutions is also an information and referral service, so all of our programs focus on getting that message to young people, their peers, their parents, teachers and all who support young people. If you are struggling or in need of help but are not sure where to turn, you can get in touch with us and we can help point you in the right direction.”

For more information about support services, visit the Get Help section of the Youth Solutions website or contact the Youth Solutions team for a referral: 02 4628 2319 | info@youthsolutions.com.au.

In an emergency or crisis situation always call triple zero (000) for police, fire and ambulance and follow instructions.

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