Youth workers’ role in promoting youth mental health

In Jigsaw, we know how important youth workers can be in young people’s development. Youth workers play an invaluable role in promoting youth mental health.

They help young people access supports that contribute to their personal, emotional, social and educational development.

This article has practical advice for youth workers on how to support youth mental health and to help create a safe place where it is promoted.

Fingal Community Conversations

The Jigsaw services in North Fingal and Dublin 15, along with their Youth Advisory Panels, collaborated with 20+ youth organisations/schools in a cross-Fingal community project. The aim of the project was to involve young people in a conversation around what happened to them in a year that none of us expected.

Setting boundaries with young people

As a parent, you have worked hard over the years to set boundaries for your children. To help them differentiate right from wrong and to make good choices.

However, as they get older many young people may seem determined to test boundaries (and their parents) to the limits.

Spend some time thinking about your boundaries and expectations and how they evolve. This can help avoid some of the conflict that inevitably arises as young people progress into adulthood.

In the article, you will find:

Gaming and mental health

Online gaming is a really popular activity that can be a healthy and enjoyable pastime.

There are many benefits to online gaming. It can be a way of connecting with others, making friends online and reducing isolation.

Gaming can be fun and a good distraction from current negative news and social media reports. It doesn’t have to be competitive, with many games encouraging teamwork. It can help develop problem solving skills and give us a sense of achievement.

However, for a small number of us, gaming can have a negative impact on mental health if we are not paying attention to how it affects us.

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Supporting the transition to secondary school

The transition to secondary school is a big milestone in a young person’s life. Although exciting, it can also throw up challenges. 

Young people have been in and out of school due to lockdowns. Experiences of school closures are varied, some young people have been relieved and others have really missed school.

Uncertainty about the future can influence a young person’s move to secondary school. Fortunately, as a parent, there is a lot you can do to support their mental health during this process.

Friendships and mental health

Friends are a big part of our everyday lives. Having good friends can greatly increase our overall sense of wellbeing.

What is friendship?

There are different kinds of friendships. A good friend can make all the difference if you’re going through a rough time. Some friendships are supportive and others are about hanging out, banter and not so much sharing how you’re feeling. That’s OK.

Being the best

We live in a competitive world, where comparison is everywhere. It’s often present in school or college, on the sports field or in relation to social status.

There can be a focus on ‘being the best’ when we are ranked and compared to those around us.

At school or in college there is often competition, with exams designed to assess our academic ability. Ratings can be compared to every other person our age in Ireland.

Sports can come with pressure and a focus on winning. Even in non-competitive activities, such as the gym, we are encouraged to try to get a ‘personal best’. We might focus on doing more weights or improving our time, in competition with ourselves to be our best.

Online and on social media, we can usually see how many followers/friends, likes, or comments another person receives. We often compare our social media stats to those of others. Looking at posts and wondering why some got more support than others can become a habit. What stories are we telling ourselves about success and failure?

Section 1: Exploring attitudes and feelings towards change

This section of the toolkit will help young people to explore their attitude towards change and the variety of feelings they can experience when transitioning from primary to post-primary school.  

During times of uncertainty or change, young people can experience a range of feelings. For those who find this change difficult, it can have an effect on their mental health and wellbeing. Exploring some of these topics can help prepare young people for the change ahead.