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Is unemployment really the issue?

On the 2nd January, I wrote a post called What’s the point?  It was in response a news item I’d seen on the BBC website that morning which quoted that a large number of young people the UK feel they have nothing to live for.  It cited unemployment as the main contributing factor and stated that young people’s mental health was suffering as a consequence.  On reading around other sources and from watching the news that evening, it seemed that young people in the UK feel their lives lack meaning because a without a job they have no reason to get up in the morning and without a job they weren’t able to contribute to society.  I also had feedback that young people feel they have nothing to live for because they aren’t able to afford a house or put money by for a pension.

In my post, I felt I was being sympathetic and suggested that the reason  young people’s mental health was suffering was because they are wasting too much of their time and energy focussing on one future-oriented goal, i.e. home ownership and need to set themselves present-oriented goals to give them satisfaction in the here and now.  On reflection I would like to elaborate on that post as I feel I did not say everything that needed to be said.   What I feel is required, is a big virtual slap in the face for those who feel the Government and unemployment is to blame for young people’s ‘suffering’ mental health.

Despite leaving university 10 years ago with a first class BA degree, I am still not in a position where I have the disposable income to put aside for a deposit on a house, pay off my student loan or put any extra money towards a pension.  I have also suffered with mental health problems on and off for most of my life.  So with that in mind, I think that I’m more than qualified to have the following opinion.

I am not a fan of the current Government (I used to be a teacher) but by holding them and the current financial climate solely to blame, we are neglecting the real cause of the report’s finding that young people feel they have nothing to live for.  What I suggest is to blame is a chronic lack of self-awareness, resilience and lateral thinking amongst some young people.  It is not the lack of ownership and disposable income that causes mental suffering in this context, it is thoughts those young people have about their situation that causes their suffering.  It is their thoughts about what they ‘should’ have that cause their suffering.   It is their thoughts about what is ‘normal’ and what their entitled to that cause their suffering.  These thoughts need to change.

I would very much like to be able to own my own house without having to share part of it with the Government but just because my parents were able to (which they weren’t in my case) and my grandparents were able to, it doesn’t mean I’m entitled to it or that it is the only way to achieve happiness in life.  By holding the demand that ‘I must own my own home, it is the only way to feel successful’ or ‘I must own my own home, it is the only way to feel happy’, or ‘I must own my own home because the children I plan to have need it’, young people are setting themselves up for despair because these are demands, they are rigid, they’re all or nothing.

I’m willing to bet good money that someone comments on this saying, ‘it’s not demanding to want to own your own home; it should be a basic right’.  If they do, it will illustrate my point beautifully that some young people are chronically lacking in self-awareness.  I’m going to repeat my point from my previous post.  If you place all your happiness on the condition you achieve one future-oriented goal that you may or may not achieve, you will feel miserable; it’s a given.  Carry on with this line of thinking and you will continue feel miserable until you hopefully buy a house in 20 years’ time. Do you honestly want to delay your happiness for that long?  Stop whining about and dwelling on what you can’t get in the future and focus more closely on what you could have now that brings you satisfaction and joy.  For me, this blog brings me satisfaction and joy. I wrote a post about my experience of overcoming anxiety.  One person commented that I’d given them hope and that’s all I need.  The fact that I’ve managed to give hope to one person in the world gives me enormous satisfaction in the here and now!  By blogging about my experience in the hope it will help others helps me find meaning in the adversity I’ve faced.  I’ve made a choice.  I could have been beaten by adversity but I’ve chosen to use it for my personal growth and to support others.

This brings me on to the chronic lack of resilience in some young people.  The self-pitying whining I’ve witnessed in the press is, quite frankly, embarrassing.  I feel embarrassed because there are people in Syria and other parts of the world who have no home, no belongings, have been separated from their families and live in fear of losing their own lives.  There are people who are living through the most horrific, barbaric and degrading adversity but they carry on.  They have no choice but to carry on because they only other option is to opt out of life altogether.  When I was a teacher, I witnessed this lack of resilience in the young children I taught; I saw their defeatist attitude towards the most minor setback.  I worked extremely hard to help children build their resilience; I believe it’s one of the most important qualities we can own in life.  I had to teach them from scratch that making mistakes and learning from them is one of the best ways to learn; some lessons are forgotten but never the ones where you’ve learnt from your mistakes.  I had to teach them about acceptance; that unfairness is a part of life we will experience our entire lives and sometimes even as adults, we can’t change the unfairness, we can only accept it.

Finally, I want to talk about the chronic lack of lateral thinking.  Young people of the UK, what brings you joy and satisfaction in the here and now and how can you use it in a creative way (I don’t mean creative in as in artistic.  I’m not asking you to draw a picture of yourself playing football or baking a cake)?

I’m going to do some spoon-feeding now, because from what I’ve witnessed, it may be needed.  If you love sport or exercise, why not start a team?  Why not organise lots of teams and start your own league?  Use Facebook and Twitter to publicise it.  Make links within your local sporting community and work together; you can find them on Facebook and Twitter!  Do it to raise money for charity.  If you don’t want to start an adult’s team or league, do it for local children.  If you don’t know how to organise it, then research it and find out.  Perhaps you can start a running club or start your own boot camp in the park (pool resources with friends) and don’t be under the illusion that it all takes money that you don’t have.  Nothing I’ve suggested so far requires any cash.  Are you a poet, a writer, an illustrator, a musician, a lover of fashion or technology? Get blogging and show off your ideas and share them with other people.  Follow other people’s blogs and see what ideas you could use; get inspired!  What would you like to do as a job?  Do you need to work for someone else?  Setting up your own website needn’t cost any more that £15 a month at the most and with social media, marketing is free.  If you keep hearing ‘no’ from employers, go out and do it yourself.  Don’t think you’re good enough?  Nothing ventured, is nothing gained.  It’s your choice but just have a go at exercising some lateral thinking!


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What’s the point?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-25559089

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?