No Matter What Life Throws At You

Daniel Sollé, Programme Delivery Manager on Talent Match London, writes about why mental health matters and how developing resilience and having someone to speak to can make such a difference

A few weeks ago a young man, a colleague, shyly asked me, “Danny, what does resilience mean?” At the time I was four months into working on Talent Match London, London Youth’s new youth employability programme, and had for the previous hour been working with colleagues to decide on a training package for young people. The young man – let’s call him Joe, although it’s not his real name – is a member of the Talent Match London Youth Board and had arrived halfway through the discussion, just as another colleague had been summarising the training plan: “Public speaking skills, media training, peer mentoring, resilience training…”

A scheduled break followed the discussion and I sat with Joe, filling him in on the evening’s business.  He apologised for being late, explaining that he’s had to take care of a friend who was going through tough times.  He looked tired, his voice almost a whisper.  “Danny, what does resilience mean?”

“It’s what we all need to work on so we can get up again when life knocks us down”, I said to him.

“I could do with some of that,” he said, “I know a lot of people that could do with some of that.”

And of course he is right – we could all do with some of that, and we can.  Some people say that resilience is something that you are born with.  Maybe it is for some people, but whether you have it or you don’t, resilience is something that needs to be worked at.  Over the years, both in my career – I worked for the mental health charity Mind for many years – and in my life outside of work, I’ve seen a lot of people go through a lot of difficult things, things that they sometimes thought they would never emerge from.  Speaking to the people closest to me, that journey to recovery started with being honest about what they couldn’t cope with, speaking to friends and then taking the time to build new coping skills – to build resilience.

When I talk to young people now – people like Joe – I see a lot of creativity, a lot of ambition, a lot of strength, but I know that when times are hard it can be really hard to open up about the stuff that it’s not so easy to deal with.  We’ve all had those moments when we  have something weighing heavily on us but keep it bottled up because we think someone will judge us, will laugh at us, will tell us that we’re stupid or unworthy. Some people will – that, sadly, is the way life is – but opening up to the right person, whether that is a good friend, a parent, a teacher or a youth worker can make a big difference in putting things in perspective, letting go of the stress and dealing with the problem.

I see this happen every day.  A couple of months ago I was on a long bus ride with a group of young people.  Two of the guys sat down next to each other at the beginning of the trip, saying nothing, both of them in their own worlds, listening to their music.  Somewhere in the middle of the trip they started bitching about the women in their lives, and by the end – and I have no idea how this happened – they got to a point where they were calmly talking through their problems, working things through, looking for solutions.  Scratch that, I do know how they got to that point.  They listened to each other.

Just the other day another young man, another colleague, told me that he didn’t get to university because he didn’t fill out the personal statement on his application form.  He told me that he didn’t fill it out because he didn’t want anyone to judge him.  It was a powerful moment when he said those words.  Listening to him tell that story I realised just how important it is for us to open up and talk to someone who we trust, to make sure that nothing stands in the way of the success we want in life.

That young man found his way, building his resilience as he went on his way.  Now he has resilience in spades and every day helps other young people to overcome obstacles to getting into work.  And Joe?  He’ll be taking part in resilience training in the Autumn, and as a member of Talent Match London’s youth board, he’ll soon also have the opportunity to train other young people to build their own resilience.

If you are young person and want to know more about mental health you might want to take a look at the following websites:

http://www.youngminds.org.uk

time-to-change.org.uk/youngpeople

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