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Podcast: The Role Of Community In Shaping The Mental Health Of Young People

There's a saying that 'it takes a village to raise a child'. So what should a village - or a community - do to support young people who struggle with their mental health? In this new episode of our How To Build Community show, we put this question to expert guests from around the world.

Guests include VINCENT OGUTU and RACHEL KITAVI from Cheshire Disability Services in Kenya, Protection Adviser KARLA JORDAN from the USA, Peace Building Consultant SAMER RAAD GEORGE from Iraq and Social Psychologist from Guatemala IVAN MONZON MUNOZ. You can either listen to the episode in full above, or read some of the highlights below.

When young people feel they belong to a community, it boosts their mental health

Ivan, a social psychologist in Guatemala says, ‘Many young people feel very alone and disconnected from their families. They just need to have someone to talk to. If young people feel that they actively belong to a community, such as a church, it will make a huge difference to the way they respond to crises and mental health problems.’

One way to build this sense of community is by bringing young people together in support groups where they can talk, socialise and take part in different activities. This is a key part of Vincent and Rachel’s work in Kenya.

Vincent says, ‘The young people support each other in their different businesses and as they grow in confidence they become mental health advocates - breaking down stigma and making mental health something that people are less afraid to talk about.’

Patience and trust are key to helping young people grow

However, it can be difficult for young people to admit that they are struggling with their mental health, and it takes time to build trust.

Rachel says, ‘When we first started the support groups the young people were very quiet. Until they learn to trust you they are not going to say anything about their condition because of the way they are treated in society. So I have learnt to be patient! Over time the young people gain confidence with one another and learn how to express themselves.’

Good local role models and leaders should be celebrated

Karla, who recently worked as a protection advisor in Iraq says, ‘If you want to help young people, help them to connect to one another. And help them to connect with people in the next stages of life - people who will speak wisdom into them.’

In Iraq, many people are living with different types of trauma, but it is not generally something that people talk about. Samer, a peace building consultant who has suffered from trauma himself, is trying to change this situation. Both he and Karla have realised how important it is for young people to have trusted leaders and role models.

Karla says, ‘In Samer, young people see someone who is always actively pursuing the good of others, but also developing himself. He invites others to imagine a new way of living. With the support of community, family and friends, most people can recover from bad experiences.’

You can listen to previous episodes of the 'How To Build Community' show here.

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