Mental Health Awareness Week: Anxiety – The Value of Youth Work

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week is Anxiety.  

According to the Mental Health Foundation, levels of anxiety in the UK have not yet dropped to pre-pandemic levels. In their UK 2023 survey of UK adults aged 18+, 73% of the population felt some level of anxiety in the previous two weeks and one in five reported to feel anxious most or all the time. In addition to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, it was found that anxieties such as the current cost-of-living crisis, social isolation and stress relating to work or education have played a huge part in rising anxiety levels across the UK.   

Anxiety is a complicated feeling which can be caused by many factors, but young people especially can find levels of anxiety can increase through circumstances such as exam stress, bullying, mental health problems, complications in their home life, poverty, trauma, climate anxiety, cyberbullying and more. While there are mental health resources and strategies to help young people to cope with rising anxiety, it can still often feel stressful and alienating to experience these feelings at an already chaotic time in their lives.  

Youth work is an essential resource to young people suffering with anxiety, as it offers a stress-free environment for them to open up about their circumstances or simply not think about them for a while. At each of our weekly youth clubs, we offer a safe and open space for young people to openly express themselves offering respite from stressful factors that may be affecting their lives. We engage them in technical and creative play while also encouraging them to socialise and interact with each other and our youth workers.  

We asked our young people how coming to club each week affected their anxieties;  

“I don’t feel anxious talking to the staff, even though I feel anxious a lot. I feel less stressed coming to clubs, I always feel supported.”   

“I like coming to Paisley YMCA, it really helps my anxiety. I feel very supported by the staff, and I know that I can talk to them if I am anxious.”   

“I feel more confident in general because I come to clubs. I know I can trust staff if I’m not okay.” 

“I felt very anxious when my exams were on, coming to Paisley YMCA and my home helped me destress.”   

“I don’t have many anxieties, I’m naturally quite confident. I trust the YMCA staff if I need someone to talk to.”   

Our staff also spoke about the benefits working at Paisley YMCA has on their confidence that affects their anxieties; 

“Working at Paisley YMCA, we feel very supported and empowered to grow our skills and network with new opportunities, we are encouraged and supported to grow and overcome any anxieties that arise from any work we are doing. Claire always offers good support both as a manager and a youth worker. She is always ensuring we, as staff, are okay and have access to any support we need.” 

“Paisley YMCA offers many different opportunities through regular social situations as well as speaking in-front of others like leading and facilitating. You are also given many opportunities to learn new skills as well as encouraged around previous skills all of which helps with general confidence and anxiety.”  

We aim to make our space as welcoming and stress free as possible. Of course, that doesn’t always mean it’s calm and quiet! But whether it’s having a loud, fun time gaming and coding or sitting with a quiet drawing, our space is an environment for young people to feel liberated and free from factors that may be causing them anxiety as they grow and develop.  

For more information about our club activity, follow our social media pages such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. To register for our free weekly club activity, please check our Eventbrite page.  

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