Supporting the emotional and mental health of children and young people is everybody's business, and everybody has a part to play to help young people not only cope with stressors associated with adolescence, but to thrive and feel hopeful about their future.
We hope that some of the resource and links featured on this page will help you consider what you can do, and think about when more specialist support may be required.
Take a look at our 'Self Help' page for links to helpful resources and emotional-wellbeing information you can signpost young people to.
Toolkit for communicating with young people
We worked closely with young people to develop a guide on how to communicate and engage young people who are experiencing upset or distress.
It covers things to consider when communicating and engaging young people in need. For example, what young people want you to know.
This guide was originally developed for professionals working within an acute setting. We believe this guide is applicable for any professional working with young people.
To accompany this toolkit, we made a short video which includes young people talking about their experiences of accessing A&E whilst in crisis. Visit our youtube video to watch this training video >>
“The toolkit is a good resource to support our pupils in school.”
“There are lots of strategies and information that can be used in school with the children but you can also pass on to parents as well."
“Incredibly useful! The mood diaries have been a really positive way of sharing information between home and school. The Five Areas Model has strengthened my own practice when supporting children. The interaction with children using this tool has seen children changing their mind-set to a more positive approach."
Things to consider when communicating and engaging young people in need
This information is based on the lived experience and suggestions of young people/young adults, along with some of their parent/carers, who have experienced high levels of psychological distress and accessed crisis support. However, we believe the advice is transferrable to any professional working with young people. This is especially helpful where you or a young person identify they need extra support with their emotional wellbeing.
Remember to introduce yourself and explain who you are and your role. This may seem simple but it it really is important to build that connection with young people.
Manage the environment
Often busy environments such A&E can present barriers to communication. Though you may not be able to change everything, think about your environment and how you can use this to support a young person. For example, young people told us that having the opportunity to speak in a confidential room helped them feel safe.
Consider whether the young person has sensory issues. They may experience too much or too little stimulation from their environment. This is particularly common amongst young people with a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In this instance, consider whether adaptations to the environment are needed to help a young person communicate.
"The room I waited in had blinds that people could see in and the door was left open so this meant that people in the waiting room could potentially hear."
- Try and remain calm. If you feel anxious then the young person is likely to feel it too.
- Maintain open and non-threatening posture, staying at their level.
- Maintain eye contact and use facial gestures to reassure and encourage, modelling these so the young person can mirror them.
The human touch
We know that every professional working with young people cares for them and wants to support them. Young people tell us that small gestures and acts of kindness go a long way in helping them feel cared for and having a positive experience. For example, professionals remembering to check in with them.
"Having gone in a side room there was a member of staff who came in and asked lots of questions around having enough tissues or needing a drink. Having that reassurance that you are still being cared for really made a difference as it does feel like someone actually cares."
Avoid question overload
Young people recognise the need for professionals to ask difficult questions. However, to support young people feel comfortable sharing information, they suggest the following:
- Remember to acknowledge a young person’s emotional state before asking lots of questions.
- Avoid the “why” question. Consider open ended questions such as “can you tell me how you are feeling?”
- Ask yourself “is what I am asking relevant?”
- Avoid challenging their responses or asking the same questions.
"The upfront, direct questions put me in an uncomfortable situation. I lied to get myself out of the situation easily."
"We are still in pain, it’s just a pain on the inside that you can’t see as much. Asking how someone is feeling is really important before you ask all the questions you need to ask."
Demonstrating that you have heard and that you understand by repeating, paraphrasing and summarising can be really helpful. However, young people state that it’s equally as important to avoid being patronising.
Think about how to involve parents and carers
Some young people may need their parents involved to help them, whilst others may only feel comfortable speaking about their thoughts/feelings without their parents present. Discuss what and how to share with parents with young people, following your local safeguarding procedure.
Involve and update
Young people and parents/carers consistently tell us the importance of being involved and updated in decisions or conversations.
"I respected the way that people were honest to me about the situation. I felt like decisions were discussed in front of me. This made me feel like I was being treated with respect and gave me power within my situation."
If a young person is experiencing high levels of distress, avoid question overload and focus on keeping it REAL.
Reassure that they have done the right thing by telling you they need help and/or that they are safe.
Explain who you are, what you are going to do, what is going to happen next, and what is going to happen after that.
Acknowledge that they are going through a really bad time and validate their feelings/emotions.
Listen, really listen, and keep listening! Listen to and look at body language.
"It’s hard to admit that you need help so it’s important that staff reassure you they are there to help and you've come to the right place."
When you’re in distress, you’re not trying to be difficult or rude, or non-compliant.
Need specific advice?
As a professional, if you wanted some advice and guidance around how to support a young person you are working with, please contact our Children and Young People's Access Team via the Lincolnshire Here4You Line
0800 234 6342