Youth Mental Health Day 2023 – The Impact of Youth Work and Bravery of Young People

Today is Youth Mental Health Day and on this day, we reflect on the importance of young people’s mental health as well as the role of youth work as they develop, learn and grow.  

The theme for this year’s Youth Mental Health Day is #BeBrave and focuses on the many forms that bravery can take for young people to build confidence in themselves and their mental well-being.  

Life as a young person can often be challenging for a variety of reasons and many young people in Scotland are experiencing high levels of mental distress and anxiety. According to a Health Behaviour in School-aged Children 2022 study commissioned by Public Health Scotland (published 21 June 2023), nearly half (49%) of young people experienced multiple mental health complaints every week (most common being feeling nervous, sleep difficulties and feeling irritable) and recorded the lowest levels of confidence among young people in the past 28 years, with only 42% reported to regularly feel confident in themselves.  

This year’s theme #BeBrave reflects the importance of seeking to change this and at Paisley YMCA, we have been doing our part to encourage young people to always try to become their best self through STEM activities, creative outlets, leadership opportunities and positive encouragement.  

Recently, we have implemented a “feelings board” in our space, which gives young people the opportunity to anonymously write down their thoughts, feelings or simply whatever they may be thinking about and place it on the board. Writing these thoughts can encourage understanding and catharsis for a young person, who may feel external or internal pressure to keep their emotions or feelings to themselves. By writing anonymously, young people feel less pressure to hide whatever they may be experiencing, and this allows for young voices to freely express themselves in a safe environment.  

When we asked some of our young people about how they express their feelings, they responded; 

“We’re not really taught how to talk about our feelings, we’re just kind of told to feel better.”  
“I’m fine, but I don’t really know how to explain or talk about how I feel to people… People usually just tell me to be happy or speak to someone who can help.”  

“I feel happy when I come here (Paisley YMCA). Music and my friends make me feel good too.”  

At Paisley YMCA, we seek to provide a safe and secure environment for young people to express themselves freely. As said by one of our youth workers; 

“Personally, I feel we really should give young people access and space to talk and explore how they’re feeling. There’s very little explanation on how to express and discuss feelings and mental well-being. Especially post covid, I feel it’s deeply important to be able to develop, nurture and explore young people’s mental well-being and how we can best support them safely to do so.” 

For this year’s Youth Mental Health, we recognise the importance of focusing on the mental health of young people all year-round and the impact that youth work can have in building confidence and positive self-image in young people. We are proud of all our young people for having the courage to #BeBrave every day.  

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