When I opened my Twitter feed today, I was saddened to read a report on the BBC website with the headline, Young people ‘feel they have nothing to live for’. The report discussed a study carried out on behalf of the Prince’s Trust which found that there could be as many as three quarters of a million young people in the UK who feel they have nothing to live for. The study, which interviewed 2,161 16 to 25-year-olds, found that 9% of those questioned agreed with the statement, “I have nothing to live for” and cited levels of unemployment amongst their sample as the main contributing factor. The report went on to say that, ‘[…] 40% of jobless young people had faced symptoms of mental illness, including suicidal thoughts, feelings of self-loathing and panic attacks as a direct result of unemployment.’ Alongside this, it quoted that 72% of unemployed young people felt that they had no one to talk to about it.
It seems from responses cited in this and other news sources that without a job, young people feel they have no meaning in their lives; some of those interviewed said that having a job would give them a reason to get up in the morning and that they needed to feel they were contributing to society. In my post from 31st December titled, Top 5 tips for healthier thinking, I listed ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ as one of my tips. By this I explained that to focus all your time, thoughts and energy on one goal alone was not healthy because if that goal does not pan out as you hoped, you will be left feeling miserable. Goals give our lives meaning and without them we feel as though we lack drive and zest for life.
The Government responded to the BBC report saying that it was doing all it could to get young people into employment but is that enough? Young people need guidance as to how they can find meaning. It’s all very well for me so say ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ to adults; we have the life experience to appreciate what that means but young people don’t, what I suggest the Government need to provide in the interim is greater and wider ranging sources of guidance and inspiration for young people.
It has become an increasing trend for businesses to utilize the services of executive coaches for the development of their staff, as well as train their staff in peer coaching to support colleagues. Could coaching not be an option for the Government to invest in to help young people unlock the meaning to be found in their lives? One of the reason’s I decided to train as a cognitive behavioural coach is because in my previous career as a teacher, I worked with a wonderful coach who helped me find my own way out of a terrible time. Coaches are not employed to advise you, or tell you what to do, their skill lies in asking questions that give you greater access to your own understanding and knowledge; being coached is an immensely empowering experience. Why not send coaches into schools, job centres or even teach young people peer coaching as part of the curriculum so they can support each other?
It is distressing to be unemployed and it’s distressing to feel that you are being held back from achieving independence, having your own income, transport or home but life doesn’t need to be pointless without it. Everyone has at least one interest or skill that gives them enjoyment, they just need to realise it and how to use it. Using and expressing your skills doesn’t need to be expensive; whether you’re a footballer, artist, musician, writer or baker, volunteering in schools, youth centres or charities is free plus you get to use their materials and equipment; blogging is free, tell or teach the world about something you’re passionate about; start your own community project; pool resources with friends to use; use the camera on your phone to present an interest or idea and put it on YouTube.
Viktor Frankl argued that creative thinking and creativity was one of the most important factors in helping us to find meaning. What do you think? What creative ways can you think of that are free and would enable young people to express their interests and give them purpose? Or do you have a completely different point of view all together you’d like to feed back?