As a parent of two teenagers and the wife of a husband who battles with addiction and depression, I’ve had my share of challenges. Confronted by their father’s suicide note and disappearance, whilst we were beyond grateful to get him safely into rehabilitation, it was just the start of the ongoing challenges for our family. For the kids, on top of all that, they are going through the whole “becoming adults” stage, dealing with friendships, being invited, then not being invited, hormones, homework, subjects they hate and teachers they can’t bond with. Add in the body image social pressures and you’re still not close to all the stuff that’s going on for them. What’s more, the part of the brain responsible for cognitive behaviour, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behaviour – is basically in scaffolding!
It’s no wonder teens have such a tough time.
A desire to make a difference
For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to do some good in the world and over recent years (and probably due to our own family situation, too) it’s been about trying to make a difference in the mental health and wellbeing space. That’s why I support mental health research and that’s why I volunteer as a youth mentor with Raise.
The whole experience of becoming and being a youth mentor has been incredibly fun, humbling and rewarding. I think the training and the experience combined has not only made a difference to the young person I mentor, but it’s made a big difference for me, too. It’s given me knowledge and insight that I think has made me parent more consciously and presently – and it’s given me a new focus to listen harder at work and that’s improved collaboration and relationships. I have new skills that I learned in training which enable me to have better conversations – conversations that are positive, constructive, caring and considered! I thought I was good at this already, but the training made me realise I had a lot of room for improvement.
Essentially, you need to do 6 online modules in your own time, which I managed to do over weekends and evenings. I found it so interesting and useful that I looked forward to the opportunity to work through it. It’s also really comforting in many ways, as you start to realise quickly that the training is setting you up for success in mentoring a young person and it added value to my own day to day.
The remaining modules are completed in group training, which I did over two half days online. It was fantastic, rub by excellent trainers and it was great to meet other like-minded people and get their input and ideas too. After the group training, I was officially qualified and raring to go. I couldn’t wait to get matched with a student. I had to take a place at a school a few suburbs away, as my son is in year 8 at our local school which wouldn’t have been appropriate. It’s still only a 20min drive and it’s so worth it – there is clearly a strong need at this school for supporting kids who could do with a non-judgemental ear to talk to. It’s obvious when you look around the room just how many of these young people seem to soak up the chance to have someone to talk to.
Professionally managed and passionately led
So, to the experience of mentoring a young person. There are 15 mentors in our group, and we are all expertly managed by our Raise Program Counsellor. She manages the whole program working
with us, the mentees and the school to bring the whole thing together. All the communication and organisation of each session is run by the Program Counsellor and every week she shares more insights and advice, as well as giving us useful briefings before and after the session with the mentees. I was matched with a young boy, aged 13 and after a shy start, he very quickly started to talk about areas of his life that he was concerned about.
Conversation that counts
Most recently, he said to me “I nearly didn’t come to school today, because I stayed up late last night and then I remembered I had mentoring today, so I thought I’d better come to school because you make the trip to come and see me each week.” We continued to chat back and forth and had an interesting chat about the fight he had got caught up in earlier that week. As we discussed the consequences of having a fight when you’re 18 and over, it was interesting to witness that he had never considered where this type of thing could lead and we moved into a super positive conversation where he was keen to understand how he could avoid this, better manages situations and be able to walk away! We had a long chat about that. At the end of the session, he said to me, “I’m glad I came to school today, it was worth it just to get to talk to you –thanks see ya next week.”
Realising their true potential
It’s a highlight of my week going to these mentoring sessions, and I can tell from the conversations we have, the subjects we discuss, that he is seeing things from a different perspective and in some cases, it seemed to encourage him to think about making more positive choices. The other thing I’ve noticed is ‘how a light comes on’ when we talk about all the stuff he’s good at and proud of – it’s almost like it’s the first time he has realised how awesome he is and what great potential he has! It’s an exciting, incredibly worthwhile journey – for him and for me.
– Jane, Raise Mentor
This is a real account of a Raise mentor however the names and photo have been changed for privacy reasons.