Empowering young people to relate to their experience of:
Autistic young people face a unique experience. There is no map or guide book to how they feel and this can be overwhelming and stressful. Writing can help to create a relationship with themselves and others. I have worked with a lot of autistic teenagers and have been amazed at their ability to relate once they find an effective medium. Writing is safe, private and is a tool people can take with them in their lives.
"Your ability to understand and accept every fucked up part of me surprises me every fucking time. Thank you for taking the time to help me understand myself better through poetry and a million other ways and thank you for hardly flinching."
Young people can be crippled by social anxiety. This can start in school and can extend into the home making it impossible to relate their feelings. Many people with social anxiety have benefitted greatly from Pete's Poetry Workshop. Anxiety builds on what has happened in the past and what young people believe will happen in the future. I have had young people who have arrived in group and cried for the first session, there is only acceptance and no pressure in my groups and it is a source of much joy that each of these people has gone on to be some of the most prolific writers. What I say to people is that the workshop is not what you expect it to be, but really this is something that is learned in taking part and seeing how other young people respond. I offer zoom sessions for those young people who are not yet ready to enter into a group situation. This is where writing is the perfect tool - form a bridge, then cross it.
"When I first came to Chalkhill I absolutely hated everything about poetry and writing. Pete changed my perspective on that. Now I look forward to poetry classes because Pete's fucking amazing! I would definitely recommend!"
Depression can take over a young persons life and affect their relationship with their family, friends, education and themselves. Through writing, young people can start to explore what has happened to them. Depression is rarely in isolation to other conditions and can often be the result of a traumatic experience. Young people are often offered medication to help them cope, but understanding cause and effect can be really beneficial. Writing offers a space where feelings get explored without having to reveal all that is private, which can be difficult for young people. One of the huge benefits to writing in a group is that connection to others can be a main components of recovery.
Unfortunately a lot of struggling young people end up self-harming. In many conversations I have had with young people, the sad truth is that they find that self-harm an effective coping strategy. Young people often write about self-harm, commonly glorifying it. What I have found helpful is getting people to write about the thoughts and feelings that come before self-harming. Unless we get to the root cause we cannot hope to break the, often addictive, cycle. Self-harm is rarely an action that exists in isolation to other conditions. Journaling and poetry can help young people to start to understand what is happening for themselves. Once there is a communication and a connection there is the possibility of finding the right paths to get help.
Eating disorders are one of the most complex conditions that young people struggle with. In my writing groups, people suffering from eating disorders have often being the most prolific writers. Anorexia involves a lot of internal dialogue and very intense scrutiny of self. I feel this translates very well to writing. Most people with eating disorders are very high achieving and the expression and honesty that young people display can often be extraordinary. Often it can be to let off steam, but producing a body of work, sharing and having a medium to communicate how difficult life is can be very validating and helpful.
Amongst young people struggling with difficulties ranging from mental health to bullying and traumatic experiences the danger of suicide is a very real one. Whilst self-harm can be a coping mechanism, a suicide attempt is the last resort. There are degrees of intent. Often the desire to commit suicide or to focus on it is the desperation to stop feeling bad, to stop bad thoughts, bad memories, to silence voices in the head and to break out of the inevitable cycle of always ending up feeling low. It is important to discuss openly with young people what their intentions are. Talking and writing openly about suicide does not encourage people to do it, it opens dialogue and lets young people communicate what is happening for them. It does help to share your feelings with peers, knowing that you are not alone is comforting. Young people, of course, may not want to talk about their feelings and this is fine. Being patient, available and helping with communication skills, means that when the time is right, help will be there.