HSCL - Parent Guide to Postive Mental Health in Young People
“ONE GOOD ADULT ‘’
Jigsaw are working hard to spread the message of ‘One Good Adult’ (OGA), to adults and young people all over the country.
We know that the presence of One Good Adult in a young person’s life has a positive influence on their mental health. Be it a parent, teacher, football coach or school bus driver, we all have a role in supporting the young people around us.
Evidence from the My World Survey (Dooley & Fitzpatrick, 2012), highlights the positive influence that OGA can have in the lives of young people. 70% of young people growing up in Ireland today said they receive high or very high support from OGA. These young people in turn are more connected to others, more self-confident, future looking and better able to cope with difficulties than those young people who reported that they did not have the support of OGA.
Practical tips on being that One Good Adult
Being a good listener is key to being One Good Adult.
1. Listening more than talking is a good starting point. It may sound obvious but being a good listener is a skill and takes effort; it doesn’t necessarily come naturally. If we don’t really listen to young people we cannot hope to build open, trusting relationships with them. It can be difficult to get a young person to start talking but once they do, remember to allow them to talk. Be mindful of interrupting, finishing their sentence or changing to a topic of our choosing.
2. Give young people time. Although this may seem obvious it’s critical to really give young people time and attention if we want them to experience us as good listeners. If we don’t have time, make time or set aside a time in the near future with the young person to come back to the conversation.
3. Don’t jump to conclusions; it’s amazing how often we are all guilty of doing this. Once we start jumping to conclusions we have stopped listening, as rather than hearing the story from the young person we are making up the ending in our own minds. Jumping to conclusions is closely related to being judgemental; young people often feel judged by adults so don’t fall into this trap. Keep an open mind and allow your ears to really hear what is being said not what you think is being said or will be said, based on your past experience.
Here are a few hints and reminders to help us in our role as One Good Adult:
Listen: the importance of listening cannot be overestimated
Look for windows of opportunity e.g. find a quiet moment, sometimes it easier to talk when already engaged in another activity.
Ask direct questions :e.g. are you ok?
Comment on what you see: e.g. I notice you haven’t been yourself lately…..You seem really tired……
Be aware of body language: try to be relaxed and open; a gaping mouth, regular clock watching or looking uncomfortable won’t go unnoticed.
Ask how you can be of help: young people will want support at different times in different ways, so don’t forget to ask them how we can help
Encourage help seeking: we can encourage young people to reach out and seek help through parents, teachers, Guidance Counsellors, GP, Jigsaw etc.
Judge: fear of being judged is one of the main reasons why young people don’t share worries/concerns with others.
Overreact: no matter what a young person tells us, we need to try not to overreact but to listen, stay calm and then decide how to respond.
Don’t avoid/ignore the issue: If a young person comes to talk to us, we shouldn’t brush it off. Equally if we have some concerns about a young person’s mental health don’t ignore it and assume someone else will pick up on it.
Dismiss their concerns: as adults, we can very easily forget what it’s like to be a teenager. From our perspective, a particular issues might not seem like a big deal but it’s the young person’s perspective that matters.
Talk just about problems: explore the young person’s strengths too; what is going well, how are they coping, what else is going on in their life? Keep in mind that having a mental health difficulty is just one part of the person.
Rush to solve the problem: the first step is to listen and try to understand what is going on for the young person. Helping or attempting to solve the problem comes next. Be guided by the young person.
Tell them they’re wrong to feel a certain way: there are no ‘wrong’ feelings. Accept how the young person is feeling as that is their experience. Rushing to try to encourage them to ‘change’ how they feel prematurely can be unhelpful.
Use clichés: e.g. ‘pull yourself together,’ ‘there’s always someone worse off than you,’ or ‘you’ll soon snap out of it.’
When keeping an eye out for signs a young person may be struggling remember that what is typical for one young person is not the same as for another. It’s important to have a sense of how the young person typically appears or acts most of the time and to pick up on any changes in their behaviour or demeanour. If you have concerns about a young person’s mental health seek help from your GP or contact Jigsaw.
Reduced attention span: you may notice a deterioration in a young persons capacity to pay attention. The key here is that their attention span is reduced compared to what it is typically. Attention span can vary hugely from person to person so it depends on what’s typical for that young person.
Anxiety: signs of anxiety or worry may indicate that a young person is struggling. You may pick up on anxiety by what a young person says to you about feeling very worried, or they may come across as preoccupied about something, they may avoid performance situations (e.g. reading in class, team sports).
Reduction in academic performance: a change in a young person’s performance should always be questioned sensitively and followed up.
Behaviour problems: any change or deterioration in a young person’s behaviour.
Excessive tiredness: teenagers especially vary in their energy levels but if you notice a young person who seems lethargic, lacking in energy and tired compared to how they are normally this may be a sign that they are struggling.
Irritability: this may be a tricky one to spot as many teenagers will go through periods of irritability but what we are talking about here is someone who appears irritable over a long period of time or someone who displays signs of irritability when they wouldn’t typically do so. Sometimes, low mood or depression in young people, especially young males, can manifest itself not so much as sadness but as irritability or restlessness.
Sadness: signs that a young person is sad, upset or tearful. This may be apparent from their demeanour, what they say, in their written work, or interests (e.g. type of music, artwork).
Loss of interest or pleasure: this refers to a young person who loses interest or no longer derives pleasure from something they normally enjoy. This can be a sign of low mood or depression. For example, a young person who normally loves to play with the local football team but stops going to practice and says they no longer enjoy playing.
Withdrawal: this refers to a young person who withdraws socially from others and isolates themselves. They may be much quieter amongst their friends than normal, or they may remove themselves altogether and spend time alone.
Sudden changes in behaviour mood or appearance: any sudden changes in their behaviour, their mood (from sadness and anxiety to anger and frustration), or their appearance.
My One Good Adult is my uncle Martin, he has always being there to encourage me when I needed it and also to challenge me when I needed it most. He always knows what is best for me and if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be the man I am today. My father died when I was 8 years old but from that day on Martin was there to step up as the positive male role model in my life. He’s not just my godfather, he’s not just my uncle, but he’s my friend and that’s why he is my OGA!!! – Aaron, Dublin
My One Good Adult is my brother, Joey. Anytime I need someone to talk to, or have something on my mind, no matter how big or small the issue is, Joey makes time to talk about it and is always there to give advice. He’s my brother, my best friend, and my one good adult. – Amelia, Donegal
My One Good Adult is the man sitting in the front with the hat, Daiz. He’s a youth worker from Bray and I’ve known him since I was 12. Without him I would not be the person I am today. He has challenged me at times and inspired me at others. Not only has he supported me but he has been one good adult to so many young people in our town and further afield. Words can’t describe how fab he is! – Amy, Wicklow
My One Good Adult is my mum. She is always there to listen to me whenever I need to talk about anything, anytime. She has made many sacrifices over the years to give me every possible opportunity. Her unyielding support and encouragement have gotten me where I am today, and I am so lucky to have her! – Annie, Kerry
My Mum is my One Good Adult. She always has and always will be my first port of call when I’m in need of advice or a good vent. No matter what’s going on she can always put a smile on my face and make me feel better. – Claire, Kerry
My One Good Adult is my mom! She taught me that it’s ok to talk about everything and is always there to listen. She’s my best friend and I’d be lost without her support and wisdom! – Cliodhna, Kerry
My one good adult… it’s my nana the reason she is my OGA is that she has given to me when she couldn’t give to herself… the knowledge and wisdom she taught me is unreal. She is my inspiration and if I could fill anybody’s boots I hope it’s hers, she is my ROCK. – Elaine Flynn, Limerick
My One Good Adult is my gran AKA Nanny. She’s my OGA because she showed me what it was like to have a voice and to use it. She showed me that once you respect yourself and others, live your life with an honest approach, and try your best then you’re on a good path. She taught me the value of treating others how you want to be treated yourself. – James, Kerry
My One Good Adult is my Mammy, my best friend, my inspiration. My mam has been there for me through thick and through thin. She always has a kind word to say, full of wisdom and full of love. She has Been my rock at the toughest of times. When I feel the world is against me my mum would be by my side helping me fight every battle. If I was half the woman my mam is in the future I’ll be a proud girl. – Lauren, Offaly
My One Good Adult is my Mam. She’s been there for me through the developmental milestones of childhood right through adolescence and adulthood. She’s always taught me that once you try your best it’s good enough and that hard work will always reward in the end. “Be proud of who you are” is one of her favourite quotes she uses. She is one in a million. She is my mother, and my best friend and I love her so much. – Louise, Cavan