To celebrate Volunteers Week (1 to 7 June) we asked some of amazing YouthNet volunteers to share their thoughts on why they volunteer.
Here, Gareth Milner tells us about his time as a volunteer…
I currently undertake moderation of the online ‘forum/message board’ at TheSite.org, an extremely valuable online resource for those aged 16-25, run by the charity YouthNet. I first started as a user of YouthNet’s services and subsequently developed into a volunteer.
My involvement with YouthNet began over 10 years ago. I’ve known and seen many staff come and go, yet there has always been dedication amongst them all – past and present – to provide sheer excellence in terms of supporting young people in a modern and fast moving society.
In the past I have used holiday time from work – I’m a soon to be former soldier – to help out at YouthNet’s office in central London, in addition to volunteering in a virtual online capacity. During my volunteering I’ve assisted with various working groups and projects to improve and develop services provided by YouthNet.
During a quiet period of downtime in 2012, I was even able to moderate the community message boards from a laptop in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province in Afghanistan.
YouthNet and its services helped me when I needed support, the peer based support element is invaluable. TheSite isn’t just about solving problems or issues people feel they have, there are also several fact sheets and information pages.
I continue helping as a volunteer to improve and advance the work that YouthNet undertake with TheSite, primarily because I recognise the value that YouthNet and TheSite provides young people.
In an increasingly interconnected world, online peer support and advice is paramount to enable young people to find the help they need and want. The commitment of YouthNet’s core staff combined with the enthusiasm of its army of volunteers provides something akin to magic.
Whilst I can only speak with authority about my own experiences, volunteering with YouthNet – to me – is about giving something back to help that magic continue. For volunteers within this fine organisation, it’s hard to feel anything other than a sense of selfless commitment towards a charity investing so heavily in the future of a generation.
Our thanks to Gareth for his blog and continued support. YouthNet works with 263 volunteers who support us in all areas of our services. If you’re interested in volunteering with us, take a look at our current opportunities or get in touch via email@example.com
To celebrate Volunteers Week (1 to 7 June) we asked some of amazing YouthNet volunteers to share their thoughts on why they volunteer.
Here’s Cheryl’s blog…
Hey, my name is Cheryl and my role within YouthNet is a relationship advisor (in training). I give people between the ages of 16-25 advice on their relationships which they are having issues with. They can ask questions freely on Ask a Question and I will reply back to them within three working days. I can also write on the discussion boards and start topics of conversation between users. I started this role in March of this year. I study Psychology at the moment and thought this would be a great opportunity to get involved with helping people in their day to day lives. I felt it would be really great experience to reflect on further down the line. I have learnt to be very impartial with certain types of situation and try to see both sides when you only have half of the story in front of you. It has really enhanced my listening skills and writing skills also.
At the beginning of this year I had started volunteering with Kids Company – a charity which helps vulnerable children. I have been working in a school for a few months now voluntarily helping the children with school work in class and also running the girls football club at lunch time, I have also started a befriending role with Mind, a mental health organisation.
Our thanks to Cheryl for her blog and continued support. YouthNet works with 263 volunteers who support us in all areas of our services. If you’re interested in volunteering with us, take a look at our current opportunities or get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org
YouthNet’s volunteers offer their time, energy and brains to so many different and challenging roles within YouthNet – without our volunteers we couldn’t reach and support as many young people as we do.
We ask a lot of our volunteers and they never fail to deliver. One week, they could be running an online live chat session giving advice and support to other young people – the next, asked to pitch their ideas to senior members of YouthNet and O2 – the next, responding to a bespoke relationship question.
With our opportunities ranging from app co-creation to relationship advice and support, our volunteers are versatile and unique. Some complete all their volunteering and training online from home, such as our roving photographers, which means we can recruit and involve young people from across the UK.
YouthNet offer a variety of different volunteering roles. These are sometimes medium term projects, with a commitment of up to six months, like our Employability Project Group volunteers and our Relationship Advisors (we have a couple of blogs from our Relationship Advisors coming up later this week). Some are longer term ongoing commitments, such as our Live Chat and Board Moderator roles. Alongside our roles we offer online training and accreditation options, supporting our volunteers to develop and gain skills.
We currently involve over 200 volunteers from across the UK. Our volunteers, like the people we support, are mostly aged 16-25 and without them we wouldn’t be able to offer the peer support that is so vital. Without our volunteers we wouldn’t understand young people like we do, or create the products and content that we do. Without our volunteers our services wouldn’t matter to as many young people as they currently do.
Volunteers Week is about celebrating and recognising the contribution of our volunteers. At YouthNet we aim to do that every day, but want to take this opportunity to say thank you and give them the public recognition and thanks that they deserve.
This blog introduces TheSite’s new housing section – the first phase of YouthNet’s response to the housing crisis engulfing young people in the UK today.
Understanding the problem
The story started over a year ago. Funded by Nominet, we brought together housing and homelessness experts and young people to research the root causes of homelessness (see an earlier blog outlining the process).
We assumed young people became homeless for financial reasons – but we were wrong. Our research shows the main factor is almost always family breakdown of some type. As our video Spike’s story illustrates, a huge range of family issues can lead a young person to leave home. And often, like Spike, they don’t even see their situation in its true light until it’s too late. Sofa surfing with friends can seem like a fun option, until the sofas run out.
Intervening early on the root causes of homelessness
It followed that what is needed is a focus on all the strands that can lead a family to break up – so we’ve produced content about divorce, bereavement, mental illness, parental alcoholism, neglect and child abuse. We look at solutions young people can access themselves without external support – whether it’s calling a helpline, going to their GP or asking for family therapy or mediation. Thanks to the National Youth Reference Group and YMCA for helping us find case studies for this section.
As well as looking at the root causes of homelessness and asking what a Spike or a Zeph might need to avoid leaving home in the first place, we’ve focused on providing information about how to leave home in a managed and safe way if that’s the only option.
Dodgy landlords, annoying housemates, trouble paying the bills
We’ve tied the launch of our work on family breakdown and homelessness with the migration of our housing content onto TheSite from our old platform. The problems that dog young people in the rental sector are endless and can mean anything from a pesky dripping tap that gets in the way of exam revision to facing eviction because of rent rises. We’ve tried to cover the whole spectrum in our housing problems section.
Of note here is that we co-opted several young vloggers to tell us about their housing tribulations. This strand of work features debuts from Youthnetters Josh and Luis and a special appearance from long-standing YouTuber Beckie0, who kindly lent her time to this project. Using vloggers is proving a very successful way to engage young people and following this trial we hope to work with many more new and established YouTube personalities.
The end of the beginning
This piece of work represents the completion of the first phase of a three year project aimed at intervening early on youth homelessness. Our vision is of a digital ecosystem of support that mirrors young people’s lives. Our research has helped formulate a three year plan encompassing interlinking and complementary digital products that address specific need states around relationship breakdown, sofa surfing and slipping close to homelessness.
We know that there is not a single product solution to homelessness, and we will continue to collaborate with sector partners and young people to establish our approach as it develops.
Yesterday, 21 runners supporting YouthNet joined almost 36,000 others to take on the mighty Virgin London marathon. Luckily they were treated to warm sunshine and beautiful blue skies for what is always an unforgettable day. A collective of YouthNet staff were positioned at mile 25 to cheer our runners down the final stretch!
Our heartfelt thanks go out to Lisa, Janine, Jason, Leane, Rachel, Hester, Mike, Cristiana, Will, Stephen, Peter, Robert, Ingrid, Alex, Laura, Susan, Simon, Chris, Robbie, Ian and Rich for their incredible dedication to training and fundraising.
Collectively they’ve raised thousands of pounds for YouthNet which will help us continue to deliver and innovate our services so that we can reach many more young people. If you’re inspired by our marathon runners and want to run for us next year, please contact email@example.com.
With continuously alarming levels of youth unemployment, it’s not surprising that our Work & Study on TheSite is one of the most popular areas of support and the search term that leads the most young people to TheSite is around Job seekers allowance. Young people are facing a huge challenge to find work and cope with the impact on their lives.
To meet this need, and thanks to the support of Capital One, YouthNet has been developing our support in this area and increasing our content and help, such as these articles on Graduate CV Advice and Apprenticeships.
We also take the approach of looking at employability as one part of young people’s lives, so to recognise the impact on the related issues of money, housing and relationships. We believe we must be there for the wider consequences that finding and transitioning into work can have on young people. Key to this is providing support for their mental well-being.
The Prince’s Trust Youth Index showed that 40% of jobless young people have faced symptoms of mental illness – suicidal thoughts, feelings of self loathing and panic attacks – as a direct result of unemployment. 1 in 5 of those young people who are faced with unemployment report they cannot cope with the pressures of day to day life.
So we must do more.
YouthNet are making employability the focus of our major Cycle of Innovation (COI) approach for this year, to develop new digital tools in partnership with young people that can make a difference. In essence, this is our Research & Design process going from insight to product development, with collaboration at its heart; collaboration with young people, sector colleagues, corporates and digital experts. By coming together, we believe we can be ambitious in shaping new solutions to some of society’s key challenges.
It’s our third such cycle, the first two looking at help seeking behaviour via mobile devices and the power of early digital intervention to prevent young people slipping into homelessness. The process is fairly intense and pretty ambitious, as we believe we need to be bold in our thinking and creativity to find the right solutions and use the power of digital to make a difference to young people’s lives.
We want to share our experiences and insights from the COI into employability, so this time we have established a dedicated site from the start to share our progress, insights and challenges and give a voice to the young people taking part and those of our partners. Please have a look, share your own thoughts and read those of our participants.
There are some great blogs by some of our ‘Job Squad’ of young volunteers.
YouthNet’s Job Squad is a group of 18-25’s from across the UK and at different stages in their employment journey, who will provide insight, share their personal experiences and help YouthNet’s understanding of what employment looks like to young people today. They’ll be working on creating hypotheses and creative solutions to help formulate and shape YouthNet’s strategic thinking around employability so that together, we can develop support which can help other young people.
So far, they have joined us for a kick-off session to look at areas of support needed and taken part in a co-creation session with employers. This event took place last Friday, and brought together young people, Third Sector experts and corporate organisations. It aimed at exploring the needs of both young people and employers, and to help YouthNet begin co-creating ideas for new digital employability support. It was a lively session hosted at the fantastic Bakery with the usual flips charts, post-it notes and prizes for the winning team. It offered some interesting insights and developed some great initial ideas, all of which we will be using to take forward through the process. You can see more on our employability site.
From this we move quickly to co-creation sessions around three key territories of support which take place over the coming weeks.
As Chris Martin, our Operations Director has described, YouthNet’s COI process is stepping into the unknown as we have no idea of where the journey will take us and what concepts young people will develop with us. Yet is it always a creative and fun process and a vital part of our commitment to striving to do more for young people with the challenges they face.
So watch this space as we continue our COI process and to see where we end up.
Find out why YouthNet and Legal & General are working together to help you stay motivated during these tough times through our Every Day Matters campaign.
Life’s not easy, is it? Whether you’re busy studying 24-7 for exams, sending off job applications on a daily basis, dealing with peer-pressure or just worrying about the next place to stay when your mate kicks you off his sofa, you’ll know growing up in the UK today is tough.
Luckily, you’re a motivated bunch. You try and stay positive. You’re working hard to get through this and try to do well – you don’t just sit around all day and wait for things to happen. You try to make your futures bright.
At YouthNet we know that dealing with all this stuff can be hard. And it can wear you down. Even the toughest of us. We’re concerned that even the most motivated young people may be running on empty, in the current climate.
We want you to know that the work you put in every day, matters.
So this fortnight (between the 17th and 28th of March) we’re going to help you keep spirits up. With the support of our partner Legal & General, YouthNet will be offering advice and tips (from both experts and other young people) to get you through these tough moments.
We’re also asking you to tell us what keeps you motivated every day to achieve the things that matter to you in life. We’ll share these messages with others in similar situations, to help them keep on track.
We want you to know that all you’re doing every day WILL eventually make a difference to your future; every day matters. But it all starts with looking after yourself and knowing support is there for you and that you’re not alone.
To get you started, here are some simple things you can do right now
Feeling stressed? A bit can be good, but when it builds up you need to learn how to deal with it.
Who are Legal & General and why is YouthNet working with them?
Legal & General is a leading financial company whose core aim is to help people achieve financial security. Every day, Legal & General helps people plan for the things they dream about, deal with the unexpected, and protect the things that matter. This approach is known as ‘Every Day Matters’ and represents what Legal & General cares about, what it stands for and how it behaves.
The folks at Legal & General understand that young people are the future so they want to work with YouthNet to keep you motivated as you embark on your journey into adulthood, by launching our long term partnership with this inspirational social media campaign.
Will the relationship affect YouthNet’s services and the support you receive from us?
At YouthNet our policy is to ensure our online services remain independent and factually accurate. Our partnership with Legal & General does not extend to endorsing their products or services and we suggest our users take into account the whole market when choosing an insurance provider.
YouthNet is a small charity. We survive on donations from a wide variety of partners in the private and public sectors as well as small trusts and individuals. Our aim is to provide information, advice and support to young people that they can trust.
Though we partner with many different types of organisation, you can be confident that the information on YouthNet is free from commercial or government influence of any kind.Find out more about how YouthNet gets its funding.
All this week we have been sharing a series of blogs by young people and professionals with experience of self-harm in the lead up to Self-harm Awareness Day (1st March 2014).
Our focus on self-harm this week has been part of a campaign to raise awareness about the key situations and feelings that lead young people to self-harm and share some thoughts and experiences on different coping techniques or distractions.
As part of our joint charity survey we asked young people what messages about self-harm they’d like to share with the world. We received almost 3,000.
Here are just a few:
“We are all fighting our own battles and we are all strong enough to win. We just need to believe.”
“There’s no shame in seeking help- it’s better to talk to someone instead of keeping it all inside.”
“Parents-don’t expect your child to know all the answers to your questions, they probably don’t know themselves. Just listen.”
“People who self-harm aren’t doing it for attention, that’s the last thing they want, they just want someone to talk to and help.”
A recent poll, conducted for Self-harm Awareness Day, reveals that one in four young people who self-harm started due to bullying, with 61 per cent saying they do it because they feel alone.
ChildLine, Selfharm.co.uk, YouthNet and YoungMinds have collaborated once again in support of Self-harm Awareness Day (1st March). To help understand the key reasons why young people begin to self-harm, the charities conducted a survey* and received an overwhelming response from almost 4,000 young people aged 25 and under.
Feeling ‘alone’ and being ‘bullied’ were highlighted as the key triggers that lead young people to self-harm for the first time. One in four of respondents named ‘bullying’ as the biggest reason for hurting themselves and 61 per cent of respondents said that the event leading them to self-harm had made them feel ‘alone’. More than 38 per cent of respondents admitted that, other than online, they had never spoken to anyone about their self-harming.
Each year, the charities see increased demand for services as more and more young people are trying to reach out for support. ChildLine alone have seen a staggering 41 per cent increase in counselling sessions where self-harm was mentioned.
When asked about their coping techniques, respondents rated ‘listening to music’ (45 per cent) as the best way to stop themselves from harming. This was followed by ‘talking to friends and family’ (15 per cent), which coupled with the admission that 38 per cent have never spoken to anyone about their self-harm, highlights the increasing importance of breaking taboos around this issue and encouraging people to talk more openly.
Rachel Welch from Selfharm.co.uk, speaking on behalf of the charities said: “Really tackling the issue of self-harm among young people means not only recognising the situations and feelings that lead them to take this path but also ensuring that those in a position to help them recognise the early signs of self-harm and how best to support them.”
“Young people themselves can also be a source of support for each other. As part of the survey, we asked young people to tell us their distraction or coping techniques and share their own messages to raise awareness of self-harm and break some of the common myths. We received a fantastic response and will be sharing these messages via our websites and social media for a week after Self-harm Awareness Day.”
Sharing her own message in support of others affected by self-harm, Becky, an 18 year old who volunteers for selfharm.co.uk said: “By bringing self-harm into the light and speaking about it openly we send an important message: ‘You are not alone, help is always out there and there is always hope’.”
Rachel continued: “Many young people told us that they wanted people to know their self-harm wasn’t about attention seeking. It’s so sad that young people are facing this stigma and being labelled rather than getting the support they need.”
The charities want everyone to be able to recognise the initial signs of self-harm and support young people to know that they are not alone. You can find out more about the campaign on each of the charities’ websites or by follow their campaign on Twitter via #selfharmawarenessday.
Notes to Editors
*Charity Survey – From December 2013 to February 2014, ChildLine, Selfharm.co.uk, YouthNet and YoungMinds hosted a self-selecting online survey to ask young people about their experiences of self-harm.
When young people gave us reasons for hurting themselves for the first time, the most frequent were:
Family relationships (17%)
Pressure to do well at school (14%)
Emotional abuse (11%)
When asked about the feelings that first led to them hurting themselves, young people cited feeling:
Out of control (34%)
Self-harm Awareness Day (1st March 2014) is a global awareness day aimed at breaking down some of the myths and stereotypes around self-harm and raising awareness about the support available to people. This is the fourth year that ChildLine, Selfharm.co.uk, YouthNet and YoungMinds have come together to ensure young people experiencing self-harm have access to information, support and advice whenever and wherever they need it.
Case studies for press and media interviews are available on request.
About the Charities/Services:
ChildLine offers children and young people aged 19 and under free, confidential advice and support 24 hours a day – no problem is too big or small. Our trained volunteer counsellors can be contacted through our helpline 0800 1111 or on www.childline.org.uk for online chat or email.
Selfharm.co.uk is a safe, pro-recovery website that supports young people who self-harm. It also offers training for parents, carers and professionals equipping them to handle disclosure and provide effective support.
YoungMinds is the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people. YoungMinds provides a Parents’ Helpline for any adult concerned about the mental health or wellbeing of a child or young person. 0808 802 5544 or www.youngminds.org.uk
YouthNet is the leading online charity behind TheSite.org, the online guide to life for 16-25 year olds. TheSite.org provides essential, straight-talking, anonymous advice to young people about the issues affecting their lives. 0207 520 5700 www.youthnet.org/www.thesite.org
All this week YouthNet are sharing a series of blogs by young people and professionals with experience of self-harm in the lead up to Self-harm Awareness Day (1st March 2014).
Here, Claire (25) talks about how music can be a great distraction when she feels the urge to self-harm.
For me personally music takes me to another place it lets me escape the thoughts in my head and allows me to stop thinking about things for a while.
I often make different playlists to help through different points in my life. When I am feeling happy I will make a playlist of some really upbeat songs and then when I don’t feel too happy, I will make a playlist full of songs that have uplifting lyrics that help me feel a bit stronger. I also feel like I can connect with the lyrics of songs and how words can really lift your mood.
Music is also a good distraction for me personally because it helps me to feel myself. By this I mean that I don’t have to pretend to be somebody else, I can put my ipod on and just be myself, without having to pretend I am okay. Music is powerful and it helps me express my feelings and thoughts.
Music can also be shared and his can be a positive activity because it keeps people distracted and it can be a way of expressing how you’re feeling. It provides a platform for people to get chatting about music and sharing what they’re into.
There are lots of distractions out there that young people could find helpful. It depends on the young person because everybody is unique. There are immediate distractions, that help people in the moment when they need to be distracted, and there are also long term distractions that could also help in the long run.
Immediate distractions could include, doing some drawing, or some knitting, both of these activities help to keep your hands busy and also distract you because you are focusing on something else, your drawing and also the pattern your knitting, and you will also have something to show at the end of the activity. Reading is also a good distraction, because it could take you away from the situation and you can concentrate on your book, and almost go to another place while you’re reading, you can feel totally absorbed in the storyline and forget about things for a while. It could also include having an elastic band on your wrist and pinging it whenever you want to hurt yourself, this will give you the sensation of pain, but won’t cause any permanent damage to your body.
Long term distractions could include, going to the gym or going for a walk, again both these distractions can help in the long term, going to the gym can help because it keeps you healthy and also exercise is a great way to lift your mood. Going for a walk also helps because being outside in the fresh air gives us more energy, as well as a space to reflect positively on things. I enjoy going on walks and it gives me time to think and just clear my head when I am feeling a bit down. It is also helpful, because you’re not sitting there on your own thinking things through over and over. Some other long term distractions could include cooking and going swimming.
With any distractions it’s important that people find what works for them, and helps them to feel good. Not everybody is the same. This is very important because distractions are very important and they do help a lot. So don’t give up on distractions it can sometimes take a while to find what works for you, but it is so worth it when you find something that helps you.
Our thanks to Claire for sharing her story. Further information and support for self-harm is available on TheSite.
You may also want to check out the playlists and support on Madly In Love- a place where young people share how they feel about sex, love and mental health.
Self-harm Awareness Day (1 March) is a global awareness day aimed at breaking down some of the myths and stereotypes around self-harm and raising awareness about the support available to people. This is the fourth year that ChildLine, Selfharm.co.uk, YouthNet and YoungMinds have come together to ensure young people experiencing self-harm have access to information, support and advice whenever and wherever they need it.