An innovative programme is helping to turn around the lives of young people who have struggled with trauma, mental health difficulties, inequality and isolation.
Steps To Resilience, run by health and wellbeing charity LinkLiving, has developed the project to ensure that those who have had a tough start to life can go on to have a bright future.
The programme has so far yielded positive results, with 90 per cent of participants on the first Falkirk based course in 2018 moving on to full-time employment, further education and volunteering.
One of the courses focuses on young people who are struggling to attend school due to mental health issues.
The other is for 16-25 year olds, where a young person can refer themselves or be recommended by a social worker, homelessness prevention officer, the Scottish Government’s Developing Young Workforce (DYW) programme, or another local charity or organisation.
The charity has run eight of these personal development courses to date for the two age groups – 14 to 16 and 16 to 25-year-olds, and they are currently launching new courses in Fife and Falkirk.
The courses are funded by a National Lottery Young Start grant, Cash Back for Communities and the John Scott Charitable Trust.
With a substantial waiting list for future programmes, LinkLiving is now seeking additional funding to roll the programme out to more young people in Falkirk and Fife and potentially extend into other areas in East Central Scotland such as Edinburgh and Clackmannanshire.
Sarah Smith, Chief Executive of LinkLiving, said: “Our aim is to help young people break the negative and destructive cycles of behaviour that they may have fallen into because they have never had the support they needed previously to cope with trauma and disadvantage in their life.
“This includes helping young homeless people and those who are coming out of care to develop personal resilience, which involves developing practical and emotional skills.
“We provide truly person-centred support, helping young people to become more employable by offering volunteering opportunities and the care and support they need to move on positively in their lives.
“These young people already show a high level of determination, they have already survived a host of adverse circumstances.
“Steps To Resilience helps these young people to channel that energy in a positive way by nurturing their qualities and skills to help them make better life choices and a brighter future.”
Young people who may benefit from this course include those who have had adverse childhood experiences due to disadvantage and social exclusion.
This could be due to homelessness, abuse, mental and physical health issues, bullying, being in care, poverty, illiteracy or living in a drug and/or alcohol abuse home environment.
Sarah added: “These factors can result in low self-esteem and confidence, poor mental health and a pattern of self-destructive behaviours, all of which can negatively impact on a person’s ability to manage their life practically and/or emotionally.
“They may struggle to establish positive relationships, to cope with change, or commit to training or employment and without the right help and support this can have a devastating impact on their life and lead to a bleak future.
“Our aim is to help young people to have the best life possible.”
For more information visit: www.linkliving.org.uk/steps
Dad-of-two Jamie Mowbray, 20, from Kirkcaldy in Fife says he might have ended up in jail or possibly even dead without Steps To Resilience.
Jamie heard about Steps To Resilience when he was at college. He was struggling with his mental health and anger issues and thought it would be good for him because he could learn coping strategies.
Jamie said: “I wanted to be able to keep my anger under control and improve my mental health. I knew I’d enjoy the team building activities and working in a group. I can be confident at times and I’m good at bringing groups together.”
Jamie was 14 when he was taken into residential care, where he stayed until he was 17. He’d grown up in Anstruther, Fife, but his care placement was in Edinburgh, so this was a difficult transition to make.
Although Jamie was in care for a relatively short time, he says it still had a real impact on his mental health.
He said: “Being in care with people I didn’t know and attending a different school in a big city where I didn’t feel safe was really scary. There were a lot of negative influences in my life and I struggled to stay on the right track.
“My son was a saving point in my life, when he arrived I changed completely. I was a new man. I wanted to better myself to give him a good life.”
His son is now two years old, and Jamie also has a four-month-old daughter.
Jamie added: “I wanted to help myself and having the course tutors in my life really helped me to do that. The tutors taught me to stay calm and focused, to work hard and stay out of trouble.
“They showed me to take things with a pinch of salt and try not to get angry because it’s a waste of energy. I try to live in the present now, and not worry about the past or future. I’ve also learned to take a breather and chill out and know that things will get better.
“Without this course my family would say I’d be dead or in the jail by the age of 18. God knows where I would have ended up, it’s been life changing. I understand myself better now and take responsibility for myself.”
Becky Hudson, 27, from Rosyth in Fife was housebound before the course, but it helped to re-build her confidence and self-esteem. Becky felt able to get out and about, and started volunteering. This course opened her life up again and she’s now a support worker with LinkLiving.
Becky was volunteering with one of the Steps To Resilience tutors when he suggested that this course could help her.
She’s had severe anxiety and depression since she was a child which resulted in her being housebound for several years because she was too scared to use public transport.
Becky had difficulty socialising with other people because she was too anxious to talk to people. She had been bullied at school by her peers and had very low self-confidence which meant that she didn’t feel worthy of anyone’s attention or friendship.
Becky said: “I was bullied when I was younger, even my so-called friends weren’t great, they made me feel that I should be thankful that they gave me the time of day.
“It got so bad that I couldn’t go on buses, I had to get taxis, it was expensive but it was the only way I could get out. I was scared of being around people in case they were judging me.
“When I came to LinkLiving I was accepted and encouraged to be who I am. Now I’m on the buses all the time and that’s due to Steps To Resilience.”
Becky studied childhood trauma on the course which helped her to understand what had caused her mental health to decline, and she found out that she’s not alone.
She added: “It made me realise that it’s not a bad thing to have mental health issues and the right people will accept you as you are.”
Marc Aitchison, 17, from Denny in Falkirk, was an emergency appointment after a failed attempt to take his own life. He says the course helped to build his confidence and create a healthier life for himself – mentally and physically.
He was introduced to Judo by the course tutors and enjoyed it so much he’s kept it up. He says he now has the drive to make a better future for himself and the course has given him ‘hope’.
S6 pupil Marc was referred to the course by his teacher at Denny High because she thought it would benefit him to meet other people who had faced similar challenges in their life.
After his attempt at taking his life, in addition to medication Marc was given an emergency place on the Steps To Resilience course to meet new people and learn coping strategies.
Marc said: “As a teenage boy you’re not encouraged to show your emotion, you’re told to ‘man up’ and just get on with your day, don’t cry.
“I’ve learned a lot about mental health through this course and I’m better at coping with my emotions.”
Marc gradually began to open up and talk about how he’s feeling on the course because he had supportive people around him.
He explains: “If you’re feeling emotional or you’ve had a bad day there’s a breakout room with staff who are there to talk to you. They even offered to talk to me on the phone after the course if I need them.
“Talking to someone who has experienced similar things such as depression really helps, because they understand exactly how you feel.
“Everyone on the course was very sociable and genuine and I wanted to put 100 per cent effort in because they were all giving up their time to be there too.”
Marc has continued with Judo classes because they help him to keep a positive attitude. The exercise helps to release endorphins but he also feels a real sense of achievement.
He added: “I feel tired and sore after judo but the next day I’m proud of myself because it’s an achievement.
“I feel happier and healthier now and I want to go out more with my friends, I’ve even been motivating them to join the gym.
“This course has helped me to make a new part of my life, a healthier part, and it’s given me the drive to keep going and hope for the future which I didn’t have before.”