Issues we can help with
These are some common issues that you might have to deal with at some time in your life.
- Anxiety & stress
- Domestic abuse
- Eating problems
- Relationships & family
For information on more issues see youngminds
Children are dependent on adults for their development and well-being but unfortunately some adults take advantage of this. This is called abuse and a young person under the age of 16 has a legal right to be protected from abuse. There are four main categories:
Physical abuse is where a young person is hit, punched, kicked, burned, poisoned… in fact anything which causes them bodily harm.
Sexual abuse involves forcing or inviting a young person to take part in sexual activities. It’s still abusive even if the child feels they’ve allowed it to happen. It also includes being made to watch and/or take part in pornographic material.
Emotional abuse is behaviour which damages a young person’s emotional development, for example, continually giving a child the message that he/she is worthless and unloved, or only useful when they meet the needs of someone else.
Neglect is abusive when a carer doesn’t provide for a young person’s basic physical needs (such as adequate food, shelter and clothing), so that a child’s health and development is seriously damaged. It’s also neglectful not to respond to a child’s basic emotional needs.
The abuser is usually a member of the young person’s family, a friend, or someone else they know and trust, making it difficult for the abused child to tell anyone. They may eventually talk to try and protect younger brothers or sisters from the same thing happening. Abuse should never be ignored and no matter what the victim is told, it’s never the fault of the person being abused.
More and more young people come to Off The Record because they have problems managing their anger. Anger is a very natural response when things don’t seem fair in life, or something bad happens. We all get angry sometimes. Just feeling angry should not be a problem – it’s how we express our anger that can get us into trouble. If we hold our anger in, it can build up and explode, usually in the wrong moment, and we can upset people and lose friends. But nobody wants their anger to control them, so that they regret the things they do. If it’s not appropriate (or safe) to show our anger, say, in school, it can help to talk to someone about how we feel instead.
In counselling we can explore and understand where our anger comes from, and what happens physically when we get angry. We may see family patterns of anger and how we’ve learnt our behaviour from other people. When we start to see the triggers that make us angry, we can find better ways to manage conflict. We can also learn to stand up and tell people calmly when we feel that something is wrong, without losing it. Anger can be a good thing when it pushes us to make positive changes in our life.
Anxiety and stress
Anxiety is a natural feeling that we all feel from time to time. It’s the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to a threat or challenge, so in many ways it can be useful. But if a person gets anxious too often or at the wrong time it can start to affect their thoughts and behaviour in negative ways. For example, you can get panic attacks which can be very frightening, although they won’t do any real harm (you might feel sick and faint, sweat a lot, breathe fast or get palpitations). You might lose the confidence to try new things, find it hard to concentrate and have problems eating or sleeping. You might also have continual negative thoughts that bad things are going to happen.
Sometimes you know why you’re feeling anxious. Preparing for exams is a very stressful time. For some people social situations or events where you are the centre of attention are challenging. If a friend or family member is ill or had died, it’s not uncommon to feel insecure and worry about bad things happening to others who are close to you. Lots of changes in life are scary and difficult to manage, and when you get anxious suddenly everything can feel overwhelming. But talking about it to someone can help you begin to see the patterns and understand the causes better; it can put things in perspective and bring the anxiety back under control again.
Bullying takes place in many ways. It can be physical – when a person or a group threatens, hits or kicks another person. It can be name-calling, teasing, spreading nasty stories about someone or excluding them from the group. People also use their mobile phones or the internet to threaten and torment others. You can be bullied for any sort of reason – like your race, sex, hair colour – there’s never any valid reason though; a bully will always find something to pick on. If this kind thing is happening to you and you feel you can’t cope, or to someone else you know, you should tell someone about it – sooner rather than later, so it can be sorted out before it becomes too serious. Bullying is taken very seriously and most schools have an anti-bullying policy, (although that doesn’t always mean they are good at dealing with it). But it is also recognised that the person doing the bullying has problems and probably needs help, which is another good reason for not keeping quiet! Telling an adult you can trust, like a parent, family friend, teacher, counsellor or social worker is probably the best place to start.
Most people at some time in their life will feel low, anxious, sad, lonely or tearful, but if it continues for several months, affecting your everyday life and stopping you from doing the normal things you want to do, then it is called depression. About 5% of teenagers, or 3 people in every class, suffer from depression. Symptoms can include; struggling to sleep or sleeping more than usual, losing your appetite, not wanting to go out with friends, feeling really tired and unable to concentrate on anything – either school work or fun stuff, and feeling like you’re useless, worthless and not very loveable. You might also feel suicidal or like self-harming.
These feelings can be very distressing and obviously affect all of your life and relationships. You can also feel hopeless about the future ever changing, but there is always a reason for depression, even if you don’t know what it is yet. Sometimes you have had a difficult time in the past, or experienced a stressful event. It may be a learned coping behaviour from your family or have some genetic influence.
Counselling can provide a safe space for you to explore the events that may have led to you feeling like this. It can also help you to recognise why you feel depressed and look at strategies to help you out of your depression. This might happen quickly or take a longer time, depending on what the cause of your depression is.
Bipolar Disorder or manic depression is a much more rare condition, and it is when you experience very extreme mood swings, going from feeling very high to very low. You may consider trying medication which can help keep your moods on a more even keel.
This is any kind of violence which involves controlling or threatening behaviour by any person from age 16 upwards, to a partner or family member. It might include psychological, physical, sexual, emotional or financial abuse. The violent behaviour is aimed at making a person feel less important than the abuser, dependent on them, and therefore powerless to get help from outside. It may also make the victim feel stupid and frightened. It includes ‘honour based’ violence.
This violence often, but not always, happens at home, and may involve a parent, carer, partner, brother or sister or someone else in the house. It usually happens many times – some victims are attacked over 35 times before first telling the police. Sometimes the attacker is drunk or on drugs and afterwards promises never to do it again. The victim is often made to believe he/she deserves it, and so does nothing to stop it. Even if a child is not being physically hurt, seeing a parent being harmed, or living in fear of the next assault, is very upsetting. Talking to someone outside the situation can help you to get a clearer understanding of what is happening and how you really feel.
Drugs & Alcohol
People take drugs for all sorts of reasons; maybe to try and forget their problems, or because their friends do, or because they think it’s cool. Most young people will ‘experiment’ to see what it’s like. But drugs don’t have the same effect on everyone and what makes one person feel good might leave another feeling awful! Your mood, who you’re with and where you are also make a difference. You may drink to have a good time but too much alcohol or mixing it with drugs can have very serious side effects. Also, alcohol and drugs can be addictive which means that rather than just wanting a drink or a ‘fix’ the body begins to need it. There are programmes to help people come off drugs and alcohol but the emotional effect an addiction can have on you and your family might take a lot longer to get over.
Food is an important part of life and it’s quite normal to have patterns around eating. But food can become a problem when it’s used to help avoid or control painful feelings and stressful situations. When eating patterns become obsessive, an eating disorder can develop. Often low self-esteem is involved, but difficulties at home or at school, sexual or emotional abuse or any other problem can set it off. For teenagers, feeling insecure about how their bodies are changing may be the trigger. At first, the eating disorder may give them a sense of control over their life and their body, but as time goes on it’s clear that the eating disorder is controlling them.
If you’re aware that you’re starving yourself (anorexia), bingeing and then making yourself vomit (bulimia) or compulsively over-eating it’s important to find help because after a while it can do serious harm to your physical and mental health which can’t be repaired later. Telling someone might feel very scary but because of your behaviour and appearance, the people close to you have probably guessed what is happening, and talking about it yourself could be one of the most important steps to getting better.
If you are 16-17 and homeless, the council has an obligation to house you as soon as possible, but if you are older it is extremely difficult to get housing in Richmond borough. For more information and help on this area, contact the following organisations.
Obsessive Compulsive disorder
This disorder has 2 parts to it – the obsessive part where you have invasive or worrying thoughts, and the compulsive part where you feel driven to acting out rituals or behaving in stuck patterns, like constantly washing your hands; this might be in an attempt to stop the unwanted thoughts you’re having. Many people have a mild version of this behaviour which doesn’t really affect their life, but if it gets very bad it can make day to day life extremely difficult. It can be treated, so if you think you may suffer from this problem it’s worth asking for help.
Relationships & Family
All types of relationships can be difficult to manage – family, friends or partners. The truth is that everyone is on a lifelong learning curve trying to get it right. TV and films don’t help us, because they set out a romantic ideal of love and friendship which is very far from the truth. All relationship break-ups are usually very painful because we do need family and friends and it always hurts when someone rejects us, even if we tell ourselves it doesn’t.
Whether it’s our own relationships we’re struggling with, or our family that’s breaking up, it can be frightening, and we often feel that we have no control over what’s happening. Sometimes we feel to blame when our parents argue or split up, but it’s not our fault, and we can’t make things better either. The break-up is between your parents not you, although it will usually have a big impact on your life too, and will probably be a difficult time for you.
If you lose someone through family break-up, or through death, you are likely to feel a wide range of strong emotions, including loss, anger, regret, sadness, depression, and feelings of denial. It can take a long time to come to terms with any changes.
Because relationships are central to our life you may find that your school work begins to suffer and you lose concentration and interest in school, or anything else in your life. If things get too confusing, talking to a counsellor may help you to understand your feelings and find a way to cope better with what’s going on, including any changes to your family life.
Self-harm is when someone hurts themselves deliberately, usually by scratching, cutting or burning their skin, or by hitting themselves. It can also include taking dangerous drugs, too much alcohol, not eating and neglecting themselves. Often they keep what they are doing very secret as other people can get angry with them and say things like ‘you’re only doing it to get attention’. But usually a person self-harms because the pain they feel when they do it balances with, or helps lessen, the pain they feel inside. Or it distracts them from their emotional pain, or helps them feel something instead of just feeling numb. Other people harm themselves because they feel like a bad person. People often self-harm as a way to cope with their feelings when they don’t know what else to do, but there are other ways to cope, and talking is a good place to start.
This is to do with your sexual feelings and what turns you on – you may be attracted to the opposite sex, the same sex or both. For most of us it can take a long time to feel comfortable with our sexuality. But it can be even harder if you’re gay or bi-sexual because society contains many prejudiced people who disapprove. However, there’s nothing wrong with your sexuality, and there are many other people who will feel like you. You might have parents who blame themselves or say ‘it’s just a phase you’re going through’, but this is untrue. You may have known from an early age that you felt different from the majority of your friends. However, you don’t always know from the start if you’re gay or straight – you may have thoughts and feelings for some time which leave you confused, and you can also ‘change sides’ at different times in your life. All these things are normal, so if you can accept who you are and what you feel, you’ll become more confident about expressing yourself. This may include telling your friends or family or trying to meet other gay and bi-sexual young people (which definitely helps). Talking to a counsellor may also help.
www.tht.org.uk; www.pacehealth.org.uk; www.ligs.org.uk; www.queeryouth.net
You may have other gender issues such as gender dysphoria (transgender), where you feel that you were born the wrong sex. Talking to someone with experience in this area is always helpful. Contact www.genderedintelligence.co.uk or www.metrocentreonline.org