This Christmas will you help us support young people before they reach crisis point?
We need to carry on providing essential support to people who might otherwise give up or go under. Can you help us?
How we are supporting young people: Becoming a Man
Our 'Becoming a Man (BAM) programme is based on the success of a similar one that started in Chicago. Originally developed to tackle violence and school dropouts among boys and young men, it has been adapted for use in the UK.
It’s currently running in six secondary schools across Lambeth and Islington, in London, creating a safe space for boys to come together and talk openly about what’s on their minds. They are encouraged to think about six core values:
- positive anger expression
- respect for womanhood
- visionary goal setting
Kohliah is a counsellor with the Becoming a Man programme and he tells us something about it.
"We call it BAM because it’s less of a mouthful! It’s also a highly impactful word, which is good because this project really does make a massive difference to those who take part.
I’m working with boys aged 12 to 15, and over time I’ve got to know them really well, so I can say for sure that a BAM ‘circle’ is the only place many of these young people feel able to share their worries, concerns and fears. The things they would otherwise bottle up inside, with potentially disastrous effects on their mental health."
Stories of success
One student I worked with would get very defensive and end up in altercations with his teachers. In a one-to-one, he opened up about his home situation and how neither of his parents was present in his life. Missing his mum had caused him to hold onto a lot of frustration and anger, which would sometimes spill out and get him into trouble. In essence, he was a misunderstood child who’d be labelled as ‘bad’, and no one understood where his poor behaviour was coming from.
Together, we explored how to accept and channel his anger and express it in more positive ways. Just by holding back and explaining himself, instead of reacting in the moment, he began to be heard and understood rather than just labelled and ostracised.
Another student really struggled with his anxiety. There were times he didn’t want to come to school - or even to get out of bed. His mum was worried because it felt to her like he lacked motivation, and she didn't know how best to support him. Fortunately, our one-to-ones gave this student the time and space he needed to just breathe and feel valued. And as a result, he started coping better.
You can really help make a difference
Kohliah tells us: "I don’t know what you were like at this age. Were you carefree, or did you have concerns and worries that you found hard to talk about? What I do know is that many of the young people I work with are facing things like trauma, anxiety, and depression. If it wasn’t for BAM, they might not be able to hold it together, stay on track, and stay in school."
Of course, we all know that life isn’t easy for most of us right now. But for those of us who are struggling with our mental health, it can be particularly tough. That’s why continuing the BAM project and other Mental Health Foundation services is so incredibly important.
Of course, if BAM was ‘just about talking’, some young people would soon lose interest.
Many of those who benefit most come from difficult home environments and struggle to participate meaningfully in school life. So, we also have fun activities and challenges that build group cohesion and trust, as well as one-to-one sessions for those who want them.
"Part of my role is to be a reassuring presence around the school, for example, by just walking through the corridors or being in the playground at break time. I also work with a lot of teachers on things like classroom behaviour and grades, so I’m better prepared to support each student who attends."
"When I think back to when I applied for this job, what attracted me to BAM was that it can help to prevent a young person from going down a path that might damage their future. And what could be more important than that? Another positive thing is that BAM doesn’t feel like we’re interfering."
These young people don’t need to be ‘fixed. They just need to be heard and understood. And this starts with a safe place to be vulnerable. Somewhere they can challenge common stigmas and taboos and explore what it really means to be a man.
It’s an ongoing process. There's no single point where you suddenly become ‘a man’. Yet the positive effects of BAM are very clear in the here and now.
"If we can’t focus on ‘prevention’, we can move quickly into ‘problem’, and the human cost is immeasurable. So, I have to ask you, would you make a gift this coming festive season, so that we can carry on providing essential support to people who might otherwise give up or go under?"