When you mess up as an adult, it’s painful and it’s difficult. But for the most part, it’s something you can deal with. As a young person navigating the monumental task that is growing up, messing up can really feel like the end of the world.

Learning responsibility for your own actions is not a one-lesson workshop. Developing belief in yourself and knowing you can overcome whatever life throws your way is not an overnight achievement. As we age, we develop these kinds of resources and contacts.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if these resources were available to us all from a younger age? A neutral, non-judgemental source of guidance that would teach us about ourselves in ways we hadn’t even thought of?

One such resource is the charity Youth At Risk. Running programmes for a wide-reaching spectrum of people including those in school and university, Youth At Risk aims to listen and help young people find out who they really are and what they really want.

Youth At Risk encourages young people to think for themselves, to own their own lives, and to allow themselves to dream big. When all you hear is how you’re destined for nothing, Youth At Risk aims to help young people, and those that support them, realise that they are something.

When tough love works

Image via Youth At Risk

Between October 2014 and March 2015, Youth At Risk worked in partnership with Swindon Academy in an intensive personal development and coaching initiative. 25 students took part aged between 14 and 16, with the aim of increasing responsibility and dispelling the negative views attached to the challenging catchment area within which the academy was situated.

Over the course of 4 days, students set themselves 3 attainable goals, and spent the next few months working on through a series of follow-up sessions. By the end of the programme, 88% said they felt more confident, 75% had increased their aspirations and motivations, and the 4 students who were at risk of exclusion successfully remained at the academy.

When tough love works

Image via Youth At Risk

Participants said: “It’s made me realise I’m not alone and everyone has problems.”

“I feel I can be able to see my future more positively and I’m more confident.”

Alice Lawrence, vice principal for student behaviour at Swindon Academy: “It has been really exciting for us and our young people to work with Youth At Risk.”

Ellie Garraway, chief operating officer for Youth At Risk: “The teenagers we worked with are shining examples of the courage, creativity and commitment that is needed to make change happen.”

When you read the stories on the Youth At Risk website, the thing that strikes you most is the poise and confidence with which the participants speak. It isn’t about handouts and materials used in workshops, courses and residentials, it’s about that inner strength that says: I can do this. I can do whatever I set my mind to.

Youth At Risk’s ‘tough love’ programmes help young people see past the negative internal monologue and see their true potential. 90% of those who participate in such programmes develop long-term resilience skills and show increased self-confidence. Whilst we wait for our government to catch up with a response to the need for mental health support for our youth, we can only sing the praises of such charities and raise awareness of their benefits.

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