Summer’s Story

My involvement with space* has given me the ability to find and get a job, Realise that I am worth a lot more than I thought and has helped me to get back into education.

I first joined space* when I was 13 and wasn’t aware of the impact that this service would have on my life! I went to youth club every night that it was open and soon made lots of friends. As I got older life got a lot more difficult for me as I became a young carer at home and was also suffering from Depression and Anxiety. Caring for someone at home takes up a lot of your time and youth club was the only chance I had at feeling like a normal teenager. When I told a youth worker that I was struggling I was offered some 1-1 support and I happily accepted. My key worker was funny and already knew me very well which made it a little easier to start the 1-1 sessions without fear of not knowing who I would be talking to. I was 18 and had no idea what to do with my life. Looking for a job was very a scary thought, I often worried and panicked about getting a job and failing. Through the sessions we did a lot of work around my skills and qualities which at first I found very difficult as I thought I was useless. After a while I slowly started thinking ‘Maybe I can do this’ I seriously started to consider coming off of sickness benefit and looking for some work, When our 1-1 sessions finished I was actively looking for work and receiving support from our local job centre. When I received an interview for sainsbury’s I was petrified, my first interview! Fortunately they liked me and employed me the next week. I worked at sainsbury’s for a couple months and then when I left I started looking for other jobs within my chosen career, Youth work. I want to make the same difference in young people’s lives that space* made to me and my life. I am now a part time Assistant Youth worker and studying a Level 2 diploma in Youth Work which will progress onto Level 3, I love my job and I love studying and I have no body else to thank but space*!

Youth Workers comments

I first met Summer in September 2014, when she was 17. She had attended the sessions for many years leading up to this. At the first point of contact her life was so chaotic, she could not comprehend any way of moving forward with her life at all. She had many issues from her past affecting her, including childhood abuse, and bereavement leaving her with feelings of confusion, guilt, grief and as if she had been totally let down by many services she had worked with. She was a carer for her mum, who also suffered from depression, partly due to things Summer had experienced, leaving Summer feeling responsible for her mum’s poor mental health as well as her own. Summer would really struggle to make any decisions for herself, thus control over her life being entirely in the hands of others. During open access sessions, she would spend much of the session on her own, in tears. At home she was regularly self-harming, and had attempted suicide a number of times.

My plan was to attempt to iron out some of the bits that we could support Summer with, such as improving her relationship with mum, getting her some external support with some of the things that happened in her childhood, working towards making some decisions about her future, improve her decision making skills and support with some questions she had raised about how she identifies in terms of sexual orientation.

I encouraged her to join a local LGBT youth group, which I lead. She was initially extremely nervous about attending the sessions, although she did agree it would be beneficial to be around other young people who may have shared her experiences. At the first four sessions she was very quiet, and sat in a quiet corner on her own, listening to music or playing on her phone. She was encouraged, sensitively, to join in with group activities. I informed her that if it made her feel more comfortable she could just sit with the group and see what was happening. At first she observed with no input, but eventually she came out of her shell, and started to make friends in the group.

After three to four months she was taking a leadership role within the group and was a key person younger members of the group would look to for support and friendship. Over time, she was opening up more in group activities and took a key role in talking to the head of CAMHS about how support could be improved for young people around Mental Health.

Over time, it was really apparent that Summer was becoming more resilient to negative things that would crop up in her life, such as conflict at home, and these things would no longer cause the utter devastation they did before. I encouraged her to spend one night of the week with her mum where the two of them did something together. This meant missing an open access session at the centre, however, she understood the importance of this and agreed to give it a go. After a few weeks, her time on a Thursday with her mum was something she really looked forward to and made time for, and their understanding of one another and relationship improved no end.

Something we worked really hard on was helping Summer understand her responsibilities. She would frequently neglect herself in order to not let others down, so part of the work we did was to create an importance of knowing when she had to put herself first, which she took on board really well. As a result of this she started doing some voluntary work with young people, helping them with singing in the music room, and supporting with activities around mental health.

As time went on, Summer became more and more aware of her own skills and qualities, whereas previously she struggled to identify anything good about herself. She began to think about her future and what work she would like to do, and decided that she wanted to be able to improve life for young people as a youth worker, just like she had experienced as a young person. She started applying for jobs whilst building her experience in the centre, which was initially anything that could get her by in the meantime. At first she struggled with knock backs, but through reassurance, became able to see past the knock backs, in the knowledge that things would work out eventually. Just before she became too old to work with us as a young person, she was offered a part-time job as an Assistant Youth Support Worker with a local youth organisation.


About the Author: