Mental health problems were identified as major barriers (to employment) for hidden young people on GM Talent Match (2013 – 2018).
As such, all young people on Greater Manchester's Hidden Talent can be referred to work with one of two mental health practitioners who are employed by programme partner, 42nd Street. These practitioners are exclusively available to support GM’s Hidden Talent participants for a combined four days a week. Effectively, this means young people have immediate access to support (as soon as they either self-refer, or, as is usual, they agree to their Talent Coach making a referral to 42nd Street).
Eva Linder is a Talent Coach working for Early Break in Bury. Since the Autumn, she has referred five young people from her GM’s Hidden Talent caseload to work with Hanan Warsama, a mental health practitioner at 42nd Street.
In initial discussions with young people - before and after they officially join GM’s Hidden Talent - Eva explores every area of a young person’s life: their education, confidence levels, emotional health and physical wellbeing.
Eva said: “To be able to move forward, these young people need to unpick thoughts and behaviours. They need to have the confidence to make good decisions in other areas of their life before looking for work. It’s important to get in a position where you are resilient enough to deal with certain situations.”
Hanan echoes this point on the interrelatedness between employment goals and young people’s mental health.
She said: “What makes you think you can’t go for that goal anymore? Why were you aiming for it in the first place? Some of the young people on GM’s Hidden Talent have reached adulthood without being shown how to break down their goals into manageable objectives.”
When Eva identifies that a young person would benefit from Hanan’s support, she and Hanan makes sure the young people understand the professional confidence they both have in one another.
Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, Hanan was running therapeutic sessions from Early Break’s premises one day a week. Young people she was not yet working with got to see her informally in the lounge areas before and after her arranged sessions.
“It can take weeks for a young person to agree to a referral being put in. Seeing Hanan in our building creates familiarity. I also emphasise (to young people) that the mental health support is a three-way working system, in which Hanan and I have complete professional trust in one another.” Eva Linder, Talent Coach.
As part of this open communication, Hanan gets young people’s permission to pass on relevant information to Eva. Conversely, Eva develops a long-term plan geared towards the ultimate goal of employment. Hanan supports the targets of this plan during her one-to-one sessions. For example, she will discuss how young people feel about their targets and how their mental health and wellbeing may prevent them from achieving them.
In her first session with a young person, Hanan carries out a needs assessment. Eva has sat in on these sessions, to support her young people…
Eva’s caseload have presented with a variety of complex needs, including social isolation, thoughts of self-harm, anxiety, anger issues and low self-esteem. These are linked to experiences such as high school bullying, unemployment and difficult family and living circumstances.
When agreeing strategies to overcome these difficulties, Hanan focuses on ‘changing the narrative’ with young people; helping them to understand why they are having certain thoughts.
Hanan said: “Some young people will say, “I’ve got anxieties”, but have not been given the tools to understand what lies behind their feelings. We talk about how it’s okay to feel a certain way and reinforce the fact that it takes confidence to talk about personal difficulties.”
Dovetailing with this work, Eva talks to young people about how the mind works and has been sending young people reflective self-help exercises.
Since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, Hanan’s sessions have moved to online and over-the-phone and her interactions are more ad hoc check-ins, rather than full 50-minute sessions.
Young people now need a different type of support at this testing time and inevitably there have been disruptions to action plans. Where young people had been implementing strategies to get them out of the house more and socialising with positive peers, focus is now on what Hanan calls ‘fixing broken windows’:
“We talk about those small, positive changes young people can affect. This can start with getting up at a set time in the morning and deciding what needs doing straight away. You start small with things like making the bed, cleaning teeth and slowly add to this.”
Throughout the lockdown, Eva and Hanan have spaced their contact with young people to either end of the week, enabling them to keep on top of any emerging issues.
Ordinarily young people would attend 12 sessions with Hanan, but with the upheaval caused by Coronavirus, there will be flexibility around arranging more session if this would be beneficial to the young person.
Before lockdown, Eva believed some of her young people were close to being confident enough to come together and attend a group social. She says she will need to reassess this when she can meet face-to-face with young people.
The group social would be a confidence building exercise: a chance to meet new people and share experiences. On past programmes, these sessions have served as a springboard for Eva’s young people, with them moving on to join the Prince’s Trust’s Fairbridge scheme (now called ‘Explorer’).
Eva is not the only Talent Coach who suspects that some confidence building work will need to be revisited once face-to-face support can resume. However, like all of our Talent Coaches, Eva has an intimate knowledge of the personalities on her caseload and is as well-placed as anyone to help these young people move closer to, and achieve their goals.