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Creating a safe space
In the previous section, we highlighted some of the issues many young people face when trying to get help in a crisis, and now we want to talk about what you can do to make our experience better. This will allow for more open dialogue around these subjects and will help us feel safer opening up to you.
Atlanta: Welcome back! In the previous video, we highlighted some of the issues many young people face when trying to get help in a crisis. And now that we have some understanding of that, we want to talk about what you can do to make our experience better.
Stuart: Creating a safe space where a young person feels comfortable opening up, is essential to being able to build a relationship, as well as ultimately providing support and comfort.
Atlanta: It is important to keep in mind that when we talk about safe spaces, we are referring to spaces that we can be ourselves, where we can fully express ourselves and what is happening without fear of judgement.
Stuart: Here are some tips to help create a safe and welcoming environment.
Atlanta: If you’re meeting someone in person, make sure there are no sharp objects or potentially triggering images in your space.
Stuart: Give them the option to talk alone or with others, even if they arrived with friends or family, they might not be safe or comfortable to speak around them.
Atlanta: If you are on the phone or online, ask them if they are in a safe and comfortable environment, and allow them time to adjust anything, or move to a new location.
Stuart: Be open minded and accepting, and allow us to be ourselves without criticism, and respect or encourage our individuality and unique perspectives.
Atlanta: You don’t need to know everything. We understand that your knowledge may be limited, and that’s okay. It’s much better to admit when you don’t know something, rather than pretending you do and it’s better to ask than assume incorrectly.
Stuart: Young people may have physical injuries from self-harm. When this happens, it’s important not to stare or draw attention to these injuries. These are often coping mechanisms, and may be the only way the young person knows how to deal with, express or manage the mental distress that they’re in.
Atlanta: Young people may present with symptoms that you may deem destructive or harmful. These may serve an important purpose for the young person. Scolding or judging us for the behaviours you may see as negative makes it difficult to for us feel understood and seen as a full human being.
Stuart: If a behaviour is life threatening, of course don’t encourage it, but refrain from judging. This will allow for a more open dialogue, and will help us feel safer opening up to you.
Atlanta: Try to understand where we’re coming from. Before you even meet the young person, work on your understanding of mental health, discrimination and acceptance. Understanding these things, and coming to every interaction with an open mind, will set the tone for a positive, meaningful interaction for both parties, and help foster a safe space for the young people you see.
Stuart: The only thing that is safe to assume is that the young person is trying their best. Give them the benefit of the doubt, don’t blame them for their behaviour, and understand that for a young person to end up in crisis, they might have potentially gone through traumatic events or be in severe mental distress. Perhaps both.
Creating a safe space where a young person can feel comfortable opening up is essential in being able to build a relationship, establish positive communication and ultimately provide support and comfort.
As we pointed out, when young people talk about ‘safe spaces’ we are referring to a space, physical or virtual, where it is safe for us to be ourselves, where we can fully express ourselves and what is happening without fear of judgement.
The steps to help create a safe and welcoming space can be adapted to your working environment, ‘where’ you are meeting the young person and the individual needs of the young person. This all helps with delivering individualised treatment, which will be covered in the next film!
Are there any immediate changes to practice or the environment that you can make to ease young people’s access to care?