Debriefing after an incident

Podcast 029: Debriefing after an incident

Critical incident debrief

Critical Incident Debrief

In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast ‘Online Youth Work’ Aaron chats with us about how to conduct a critical incident debrief. We look at two models and unpack how individuals and teams can best use the debriefing process to look after themselves and reflect on the best ways forward.


As youth workers we find ourselves working with young people when they are at the best and when they are in their darkest places. When they are at their best we feel a sense of pride and live on the mountaintop. When they are in their darkest place we can see them in the depths of pain and the heights of anger. In their darkest place young people can be prone to making rash decisions. Sometimes, this can lead to young people lashing out, running away or in extreme cases they may harm themselves.

When a young person lashes out or injures themselves as youth workers we find ourselves in the midst of critical incidents. We deal with the circumstances as best we can. We keep as many people safe as we can. We provide first aid to those who need it. We call on emergency services such as the police or ambulance officers as the need arises. After all is said and done we find ourselves in front of the computer. Writing up an incident report.

What could have been hours of our lives, probably on our own, whittled down to a few pages in the hands of bureaucrats. For most of us that is about where it finishes. If you are lucky you may get to chat it over with your Team Leader or Manager who may even recommend that you use an Employee Assistance Program. Unfortunately, many EAP’s do not understand the work that youth workers are involved in and the sessions end up being less than useless. What we really need in this situation is a proper critical incident debrief.

At Ultimate Youth Worker we work with many organisations to implement a strong Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) framework. We use and train others to use two different yet important models within a wider (CISM), the After Action Review and the Critical Incident Stress Debrief.

After Action Review

An After Action Review (AAR) is a process used by teams to recognise and understand the lessons learned from successes and failures, with the goal of improving future performance. It is an opportunity for a team to reflect on an incident, activity, event or task so that they can do even better the next time. AARs should be carried out with an open spirit and without blame. The Army use the phrase “leave your rank at the door” to remove blocks to involvement whilst optimising learning through the process. One member of the group facilitates, capturing results on a flip chart or in a document.

After Action Review is a form of group reflection where participants review four things:

  • what was intended
  • what actually happened
  • why it happened and
  • what was learned.

Critical Incident Stress Debrief

Critical Incident Stress Debrief is narrowly defined in scope and intent as part of a more comprehensive CISM. CISD is strategically focused on the detailed disclosure of facts, thoughts, and emotional reactions and sensory material linked to a particular traumatic event (or “incident”). It is often seen in the literature as psychological first aid and is generally carried out within 48 hours after an incident. This is not counselling or psychotherapy (however that may be part of a fully developed CISM).

The steps to a Critical Incident Stress Debrief include:

  1. Assess (audit) the impact of the critical incident on support personnel and survivors
  2. Identify immediate issues surrounding problems involving “safety” and “security”
  3. Use defusing to allow for the ventilation of thoughts, emotions, and experiences associated with the event and provide “validation” of possible reactions
  4. Predict events and reactions to come in the aftermath of the event
  5. Conduct a “Systematic Review of the Critical Incident” and its impact emotionally, cognitively, and physically on survivors. Look for maladaptive behaviours or responses to the crisis or trauma
  6. Bring “closure” to the incident “anchor” or “ground” support personnel and survivors to community resources to initiate or start the rebuilding process (help identify possible positive experiences from the event)
  7. Debriefing assists in the “re-entry” process back into the community or workplace. Debriefing can be done in large or small groups or one-to-one depending on the situation. Debriefing is not a critique but a systematic review of the events leading to, during, and after the crisis.

Today’s resources

Here are links to some articles and training that have bearing on todays podcast.

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

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Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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Podcast 026: Getting your first youth work job

first youth work job

In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast ‘Getting your first youth work job’ Aaron speaks with the Ex-student panel about how we can get that first youth work job. Every week we get questions at Ultimate Youth Worker about how people can transition from student to youth work employee. So we figured we would ask a bunch of former students who now have a few years in the field to give us their view. What ensues is a mad free-for-all on the ways we all entered the sector. BTW we all did it differently!


Getting your first youth work job

The days where you could get a youth work job because you had a heartbeat and loved to throw a frisbee are all but over. So now the move is to get a qualification. In Australia the Diploma in youth work is now seen across the sector as the minimum qualification, with more and more organisations wanting a degree. So you spend one to three years of your life getting qualified and now you want to move into the wonderful world of paid employment as a youth worker… but if you are like most students your course has ill prepared you for this transition.

So you ask your parents or friends or great uncle Bob and you get every bit of knowledge they have about getting a job… which is great if you want to work at your local Starbucks, Macdonalds or as an electrician. But when it comes to landing a youth work gig you are finding that they want five years experience and a string of accomplishments to even get an interview… (interview is a new word for great uncle Bob).

So how do you make the transition to paid youth worker? Well in todays podcast you will hear that you need to make the most of placements and volunteer work, Network like your life depends on it and to get a foot in the door (your dream youth work gig will come). You will also hear five different stories of how to get into the field.

Today’s resources

Here are links to some articles and training that have bearing on todays podcast.

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

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Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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Online tools you need in 2020

Online tools you need in 2020

Online tools you need in 2020The online tool you need (Update)

We live in a time of myth and legend and an online tool or two. Apparently, youth workers are mystical creatures who need little money or time to effect massive changes… At least that seems to be the neoliberal view of us. Another myth is that we are all hip and cool with mad computer skills. I admit to having spent my fair share of time on an Xbox or play station over the years but that is the level I play at. A few years ago I was affectionately know in my team as the IT guy because I knew how to use Microsoft Outlook and use our reporting system. Most youth workers are tech novices. So we thought it would be good to have a list of online tools every youth worker should have access to. Most of these can be accessed by a smart phone, tablet or the dreaded PC. So if your service still chains you to your desk you can still use them… But I would say you need to speak to management about moving to portable devices ????

Sked Social

If you have more than one social media account to look after then you know the pain of trying to keep it all in order. We have used a number of services to look after our socials over the past five years and we can honestly say that nothing compares to skedsocial.com. You can organise your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even a linkedIn profile all from one amazingly easy to use platform.

Check out skedsocial.com.

Evernote

Evernote online tool

Evernote is a great online tool for organising all of your thoughts. It is like having a notebook in your pocket that you can put ideas into quickly and easily without needing a pen and paper. You can arrange your notes into ‘Notebooks’ to easily combine relevant ideas together. It takes pictures, adds web links, allows you to set reminders and even draw pictures. If you’re like me and have ideas about many topics and you have scrap paper or multiple notepads everywhere this program is for you.

https://evernote.com

You can have it on two devices for free.

Dropbox

Dropbox online tool

I was presenting off site last week when the USB I had my presentation on died. Completely fried. I almost went into a melt down. What was I going to do. Enter Dropbox. I called a colleague and had them drop the presentation into our Dropbox and with the help of the internet gods it was there when I logged in. Dropbox is a cloud based storage space where you can upload and download all manner of digital documents at the touch of a button. The free version gives you 2GB to use which is more than enough for most of us. Never be caught out again with this great online tool!

https://www.dropbox.com/

Cloud based so all you need is an internet connection

Canva

Canva online tool

If you are like me you are graphically challenged. I cant draw and I struggle to use tools to get beautiful flyers out of my head and onto paper. A former student put me on to Canva.com, online tools for those of us who are graphically challenged that is literally already set up for us. Need a flyer for a program… Done. A Picture for Facebook about your event…Done. Literally any visual marketing you need all available at the click of a mouse.

www.canva.com

Won’t replace your marketing team, but its part way there.

Adobe Colour Wheel

Colour wheel online tool

Our good friends at www.nourishingmedia.com put us on to this one. Being graphically challenged it also bodes that we are colour challenged. Yellow goes with everything right??? If you need some help in this department whether for flyers, presentations or anything else you can think of Adobe Colour Wheel provides a template to help you choose colour combinations.

https://color.adobe.com/create/color-wheel/

Since using this more of our flyers are able to be read.

Psychdrugs

Psychdrugs online tool

More and more young people seem to experience mental health issues that need medication. When doing intake forms I would regularly hear the names of medications that I had no idea about. I’m not a pharmacist. What they do, what dosage is high or low, the common names and much more is at your fingertips with Psychdrugs. Easy to use and with most mental health medications listed this is a top tool.

I have used this since 2008 and have not been disappointed.

The Google Platform

google-logo-1200x630

I have only recently been introduced to the amazing array of programs that google has in its arsenal. We all know the search engine is great and may even have a Gmail email account, but there is so much more to their online tools. spreadsheets, word processing, calendars, groups, hangouts, translate… The list goes on. If you are looking for free and amazing usability then the Google platform has it all.

www.google.com

There is a reason people benchmark themselves against Google.

Prezi

Prezi online tool

If I have to sit through another presentation by someone who has just found Microsoft Powerpoint or ApplesKeynote I may just explode. Boring presentations on basic themes with too many swishes, lets be honest we’ve all been there. Prezi takes the hard work out of designing a slide deck that looks good and has animation with its online tools. Some really cool templates with fill in fields turn a lacklustre presentation into a wow instilling performance.

https://prezi.com/

Asana

Asana

Youth workers often have many projects on the go with many different teams. This is a recipe for disaster if you do not have a system in place. The best system we have come across is Asana. You can seperate  your tasks into boards or lists and you can assign the right person to the job.

https://asana.com/

Survey Monkey

Surveymonkey online tool

Most services struggle to get feedback from their young people and when you stick a paper survey in their hand it usually ends in the bin. Survey Monkey is a free tool that allows you to create great surveys in minutes and send them via email, facebook, whatever system you want. The best bit is it aggregates all the data. You just need to read it.

https://www.surveymonkey.com

The free tool limits the size and type of surveys, but unless you do a lot its fine.

Kindle

kindle online tool

If you read a lot then you probably use Kindle. Bring all your books, journal articles, ebooks together in one space and get reading on the go. If you travel a bit it means you don’t have to pack heavy books in your bag. I struggle with reading on screens sometimes however you can deal with that for the ease of use and access to a huge library of content merely a click away. The kindle app for iPad is also a great investment.

Best for reading on the go.

Bitly

bitly online tool

If you send emails or use facebook you have probably sent a link before. Most people just cut and paste and then you end up with lines of nonsense which are the link. Bitly.com can shorten the link into something much more manageable. It also has the added functionality of allowing you to see who clicks on the links and from where. Some features are paid but you don’t really need them if you are just shortening links.

https://bitly.com

If you don’t have analytics for your website users you need them.

Trello

Trello online tool

I am new to Trello but it has already significantly changed how I work. Trello lets you create separate boards for projects and then populate the boards with lists. Each list then gets cards. If you were doing a project you set up a board, add topics to be done and then add lists of steps under each topic. We use it for everything at Ultimate Youth Worker tracking workflow, developing podcasts, our intranet, you name it.

https://trello.com

I wish I had this when I was studying, particularly group assignments

Zoom

Zoom

In this day and age of epidemics and the tyranny of distance it is important for youth workers to have a way of meeting with each other, our stakeholders and of course our young people. Zoom is an online tool for doing just this. For free you can run an online one-on-one meeting up to 40 minutes, for around $20 you can do group sessions of up to 100 people for 24 hours!!!!

‘Bonus mention’

Milanote

After using a bunch of tools to try to bring my idea, pictures, notes etc into one space I was introduced to Milanote. It brings the best elements of Trello and Evernote together with the ability to write notes, upload images and files, save links from the web and add notes and pics from your phone. the best part about this app is for those of us who are visual people Milanote makes it easy for us to organise our task and projects visually.


If you begin to use these online tools you will find that your productivity increases and your time stuffing around decreases. You will also begin to do marketing of your programs better and by default have better engagement with your young people. Some of this will feel a little backwards when you start. Learning a new skill takes time. Pick one and start using it today.

Would you add any others?

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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Stress is good

Podcast 025: Stress is good

Stress is good

In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast ‘Stress is good’ Aaron speaks with us about how we as youth workers can reframe the idea of stress in our lives to gain some level of mastery over the experiences that often lead youth workers to burnout. Every year hundreds of youth workers leave the sector citing burnout and stress as some of the most likely reasons fr their departure. If we can’t master stress then it will destroy us.

Stress is good

In todays episode Aaron speak about the growing research into stress and how we have been taught to think about it all wrong. We have been told for many decades that stress is bad for us. That we need to run away from stressful situations because stress causes significant physical health concerns.

Well in a nutshell the latest research would argue that if we think stress is bad for us then it probably will be. However, if we believe that our stress reactions are there to point us in the direction of getting support then stress is actually a good thing for us.

Stress helps us to begin a process of emotion regulation. It helps us by bringing to the forefront of our minds the situation we are in and it asks us to reappraise the resources we have to deal with it. We have internal and external resources at our disposal and we need to use our rational brain to think about how we can use them to deal with the negative issues in our stressful situation.

Arousal reappraisal teaches individuals to think of stress arousal as a tool that helps increase performance. By reframing the meaning of the physiological signals that accompany stress, arousal reappraisal breaks the link between our negative experiences and feelings and poorer physical responses.


Today’s resources

Here are links to some articles and training that have bearing on todays podcast.

Improving Acute Stress Responses:

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

  • Share this cast with a friend or colleague.
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  • Share this show on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help the podcast and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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Podcast 023: Supporting Someone who is Suicidal

Suicide Awareness

In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast ‘Supporting Someone who is Suicidal’ Aaron speaks with us about how we as youth workers can support young people who are suicidal. In Australia, Suicide is the leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds. 7.5% 0f 12-17 year olds have had serious suicidal thoughts. As youth workers we are prime candidates to provide a first response to these issues. 

Supporting Someone who is Suicidal

In todays episode Aaron speak about the current rates of suicide of young people in Australia and then walks us through the suicide action plan.

  • Asking direct questions
  • Assessing the urgency
  • Keeping young people safe, creating safety plans and
  • Getting professional help.
Suicidal Thought can be prevented

Suicide is one of the many topics that we do not usually speak about as a society. There are many myths and legends which have been perpetuated about suicide. We hope you never have to use the knowledge in todays cast, but we also want you to have the best plan of action if you ever find yourself in the situation of supporting someone who is suicidal.  

If you or anyone you are working with is having suicidal thoughts please seek professional help. Call Lifeline attend, a GP appointment or get in touch with a psychologist. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Stomp on these thoughts early.


Today’s resources

Here are links to some articles and training that have bearing on todays podcast.

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

  • Share this cast with a friend or colleague.
  • Leave a note in the comment section below.
  • Share this show on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help the podcast and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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Alternative career

Alternative career and Ultimate Youth Workers

Alternative career

Alternative Career Choices

Today marks seven years of Ultimate Youth Worker. Our birthday if you like. During this time I always like to gain some perspective on life, business and youth work in general. It is always an interesting time of introspection for an extrovert like me. I have to dig in to my heart and soul, carve away all the minutia and examine my life as fully as I can. My reflection has led me to think about my alternative career.

Last week I took to the bush. It is a place of peace for me and it helps me to get into a space of reflection. I only took the very basics with me. This isn’t a time of luxury but more of a monastic experience. Alone in the wilderness I thought of all that has been achieved by Ultimate Youth Worker over the past year. The training we have run, the people we have supervised and coached, the opportunities and the failures. In my reflection I wondered if the work we are doing had met needs of the sector. I wondered if the youth sector in Australia needs an organisation like ours.

Alternative careersI was also wondering if I am in the right place as the leader of this organisation. I asked myself a question that I am often asked, ‘if you weren’t a youth worker, what would you be?’. In my solitude I thought of the early days of my youth work career on camps and day trips. As a young man I thought my career was going to be in the military. I trained in land navigation, hiking and a bunch of other skills for that career. These skills all came in handy during those early years. Perhaps I could be a wilderness guide??? I love the outdoors and the solitude it provides. There is something primal about being alone in the bush that brings you to a place of reflection. I learnt many skills in those early days which I still use today. Leadership. Self-reliance. Team work.

Alternative careerToday, I find myself working on my car. I had to change my battery as it was dead. I looked at the engine bay and had a moment where I thought I should just call roadside assistance to have them do it. Then I reflected on my first career choice. You see, before I became a youth worker I was a mechanic apprentice. I loved cars, particularly Ford V8’s, and it seemed like I could bring my passion for cars together with a means of making money. I didn’t last very long. I loved working on cars, I hated working to such short timeframes as people wanting their cars back in an hour.

As a youth worker I have used my former career choices many times over. I have run more camps and day trips than I care to remember. I have hiked thousands of kilometres and used all my skills in bushcraft and survival. I have fixed cars on the side of the road between sessions. I have even helped people get their keys out of cars they had locked them in. I have used my knowledge to engage young people and build conversations.

I currently find myself out of direct practice and in the space of education. Spending my time between educating new student youth workers and training youth workers in the field. Being an educator is an alternative career than where I saw myself going. But, it is where I know I am meant to be. My other career options have all led me to where I am today. The skills and knowledge I have gained over the years have led to the way I educate newbie youth workers and support seasoned veterans.


Seven years ago I embarked on an alternative career by building Ultimate Youth Worker. Becoming a small business owner in the human service industry is not what I had been educated to do, but it was what I felt led to do. Over that time we have had ups and downs. We almost closed in 2014 as the sector was hit with massive budget cuts. Hired our first staff member in 2017. Overall, we have tried to do things differently. Much of this drive has come from learnings from alternative careers.

So on this our birthday I want to recommit to you all. While this project was an alternative career seven years ago, it is now my main focus. I want to see a sector that is well supported. I want youth workers who feel that they can get the support they need to be the best. I want to help you all to become Ultimate Youth Workers.

As we move in to our eighth year of serving youth workers we are going to be focusing on four areas. Mental health, Self Care, Training and Professional Youth Work. You will see our podcasts focus on these areas. We will begin to create more videos to help  you in these four areas. Our products and services will fall into those four categories as well. These four areas have become our most read posts and our most listened to podcasts so it is our

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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ChildSafe

Podcast 022: Is your workplace ChildSafe?

Is your workplace ChildSafe?
  To support the podcast, you can donate here.

Is your workplace ChildSafe?

In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast ‘Is your workplace ChildSafe?’ Aaron speaks with Neil Milton about how we as youth workers can support young people by being ChildSafe. Neil Milton is the General Manager of ChildSafe. Neil has worked as a youth worker in schools, churches and Not for Profits across Australia. He has also worked for World Vision and has his own street clothing business helping prevent youth suicide. Neil is passionate about making sure children are protected from abuse and harm and that organisations know their responsibilities in regards to child safety. Neil is a public speaker, motivator and he enjoys exercising and hanging out with his wife and kids.

In todays episode Aaron and Neil speak about the work of ChildSafe Australia and their mission to serve organisations and individuals working with children and vulnerable people, with the goal of improving their well-being and safety. We take our commitment to child safety very seriously at Ultimate Youth Worker and have used many of the resources from ChildSafe to help us in making our commitment tangible.

ChildSafe is “a harm prevention charity for the promotion of the prevention and control of behaviour that is harmful or abusive to children and young people when in the care of an organisation”. Children and young people deserve the best endeavours of an organisation towards their safety. This involves more than good intentions, or the assumption that harmful incidents will not happen. Organisations working with children are under increased community scrutiny in relation to screening workers, risk management and the quality of care they offer.

You can find more information about Neil on LinkedIn.

Today’s resources

Here are links to some articles and training that have bearing on todays podcast.

Thanks for Listening!

To support the podcast, you can donate here.

To share your thoughts:

  • Share this cast with a friend or colleague.
  • Leave a note in the comment section below.
  • Share this show on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help the podcast and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes.
  • Do the online ChildSafe Training

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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Non-Suicidal Self Injury

Podcast 020: Non-Suicidal Self Injury (Part One)

Non-Suicidal Self Injury
To Support the Podcast, you can donate here.

Non-Suicidal Self Injury

In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast ‘Non-Suicidal Self Injury Part One’ Aaron speaks with Dr. Claire Kelly about her work at Mental Health First Aid Australia and in particular her work in the space of Non-Suicidal Self Injury.

Dr Claire Kelly is the Director of Curriculum at MHFA Australia and an Honorary Fellow at Deakin University. Claire has been involved with MHFA since 2003, when she first became an instructor while completing her Doctorate at the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University in Canberra, where the program was first developed. Prior to her current position, Claire was the Youth MHFA Programs Manager for 10 years and also worked on the MHFA Guidelines used to develop Edition 2 of MHFA and YMHFA. Claire’s PhD thesis was written on the mental health literacy of Australian adolescents. Her main passion is the mental health of young people and minimising the impacts that mental health problems can have on development, educational outcomes and long-term functioning. Claire has suffered episodes of depression and anxiety since adolescence, which has been a driver for this work.

In todays episode (Part One of Two) Aaron and Claire speak about Non-Suicidal Self Injury and the MHFA guidelines for non-Suicidal Self Injury developed by Mental health First Aid Australia after their ‘Delphi study’ into this area.

Professional youth workers understand that there are many young people who are hurting so bad that they self injure to deal with the turmoil. Unfortunately, not all professional youth workers know how to provide the support these young people need. Todays podcast begins to give us the tools to help the hurt and keep our young people safe.

You can find more information about Claire on LinkedIn.

Today’s resources

Here are links to some articles that have bearing on todays podcast.

Thanks for Listening!

To support the podcast, you can donate here.

To share your thoughts:

  • Share this cast with a friend or colleague.
  • Leave a note in the comment section below.
  • Share this show on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

To help out the show:

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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What are eating disorders?

Eating Disorders

Adolescence can be a difficult time for young people. It is a period of intense change both physically and emotionally, partnered with stress, confusion and anxiety. Young people are extremely vulnerable during this time and can be susceptible to experiencing mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, substance use problems and eating disorders.

Have you ever eaten greasy fast food and regretted it after?

Have you ever felt like you’ve over eaten and felt sick after?

Have you ever gone over the day in your mind and thought about everything you’ve eaten?

These are normal thoughts that all of us experience. But imagine thinking it over and over, all day long, obsessing over every calorie, and feeling constant guilt and regret. This is what someone with an eating disorder may experience, each and every day, sometimes for many years.

Young people are particularly at risk of experiencing an eating disorder. Unfortunately, social media plays a huge part in this. When we were teenagers, the most exposure we had to celebrities and models was in a teen magazine that we bought from the newsagent, or on the occasional movie or television show. But these days, young people are exposed to images every day, literally at the tips of their fingers. Instagram, Facebook and the internet show constant photos and videos of people you know or don’t know, which unfortunately causes feelings of insecurity and inadequateness in young people in terms of how they think they should look.

What is an eating disorder?

“An eating disorder is a serious mental illness, characterised by eating, exercise and body weight or shape becoming an unhealthy preoccupation of someone’s life. It’s estimated that one million Australians have an eating disorder, and this number is increasing. Eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice, a diet gone wrong or a cry for attention. Eating disorders can take many different forms and interfere with a person’s day to day life.”

There are many different types of eating disorders and these have been categorised in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), edition 5, which was published in 2013. The most common types are:

  • Anorexia Nervosa; significant weight loss due to the persistent restriction of food/energy intake, intense fear of gaining weight and disturbance in self-perceived weight or shape. People with anorexia often refuse to maintain weight at or above a normal weight for their height/body shape/age/activity level.
  • Bulimia Nervosa; characterised by a distorted body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by fasting, self-induced vomiting, purging, excessive exercise or use of laxatives/diet pills.
  • Binge Eating Disorder; regular episodes of binge eating accompanied by feelings of loss of control, and in many cases; guilt, embarrassment and disgust. Unlike those with bulimia nervosa, a person with binge eating disorder will not use compensatory behaviours, such as self-induced vomiting or over-exercising after binge eating. Many people with binge eating disorder are overweight or obese.
  • Others include: Pica, Rumination Disorder, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED) and Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder (UFED).

You can read more about each of the different eating disorders here.

Why are young people more at risk of experiencing an eating disorder?

Whilst eating disorders can affect people of all ages, socio-economic groups and genders, adolescence is the most common stage of onset of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and disordered eating. Although eating disorders can be caused due to a number of factors (personal, environmental, psychological, biological and social), it appears that youth are the most at-risk group of developing an eating disorder, and this can be due to many factors.

As mentioned at the start of this blog post, adolescence can be a tough time for young people. So many changes, both physically and socially, in addition to hormone and brain changes that in turn can affect a young person both emotionally and psychologically. The physical changes within adolescence can cause a young person to feel self-conscious, experience low self-esteem and compare themselves to peers (as well as others that they see through social media). In addition to starting high school, making new friends and trying to “fit in”, young people may also start to feel attraction to others of the opposite or same sex. All of these changes, in addition to their body literally changing shape, as well as other physical changes, place young people at higher risk of developing an eating disorder. Furthermore, eating disorders can be a coping mechanism of young people to try and control something in their life, as they may feel helpless in other aspects of their lives where there has been dramatic change. Who do you work with that has experienced dramatic change recently or even consistently? It’s commonplace with the young people we work with.

Click here for further statistical information about eating disorders.

Are there other risk factors for eating disorders?

There is no single cause of an eating disorder, but other risk factors for eating disorders include low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, depression or anxiety, pressure from family for perfectionism or high achievement, difficulty expressing emotions, ineffective coping strategies, impulsive or obsessive behaviours, conflict in the home or another life crisis, peer pressure, media representations, critical comments about one’s appearance, bullying, physical or sexual abuse, predisposition to an imbalance in serotonin, dieting, history of family obesity and so on.

What are the physical signs of an eating disorder?

The physical signs of an eating disorder might include fluctuation in weight or significant weight loss, loss of menstrual periods (women), fatigue, dizziness, changes in skin/hair/nails, sensitivity to the cold, swelling around the cheeks or jaw, damage to teeth, bowel problems (e.g. constipation) and dehydration.

What are the psychological signs of an eating disorder?

The psychological signs of an eating disorder can include preoccupation with body weight and/or appearance, increased mood changes, irritability, reduced concentration, memory loss, anxiety around meal times, sensitivity to criticism, negative and distorted body image, guilt, self-loathing, obsessive behaviours, rigid thinking (e.g. labelling foods as “good” or “bad”), difficulty with relationships, suicidal thoughts or behaviour and drug and alcohol misuse.

What are the behavioural signs of an eating disorder?

The behavioural signs of an eating disorder may include dieting or overeating, obsessive rituals (e.g. only eating certain foods on certain days), making frequent excuses not to eat, not eating around others, hoarding food, trips to the bathroom after meals and so on.

Can you think of a young person you’ve worked with that displayed psychological, physical or behavioural signs of an eating disorder? What symptoms did they display, and were you able to intervene/assist them?

Importance of early intervention.

It is extremely important that early intervention is achieved in adolescents where an eating disorder is present. This is because during adolescence, not only does a young person’s physical body change, grow and develop, but so does their brain. If this growth and development is interrupted and left untreated, it can cause severe physical damage (chronic illness), further mental health issues and even death.

It’s important to promote eating disorder and body image dissatisfaction prevention programs in schools and within local communities. For instance:

  • Encouraging physical activity in a healthy way, team sports, as well as how to cook nutritious meals are important elements that can be introduced to schools and support services where group work is provided.
  • Anti-bullying programs can be effective in targeting behaviours that can cause eating disorders to develop amongst adolescents in school.
  • Gender equity programs that challenge stereotypes of how young people think they should “look”, as well as dissecting social media and brand representations of men and women.

Eating Disorders

How do we treat eating disorders?

A multi-disciplinary approach to treatment of eating disorders is ideal as there are both physical and psychological aspects that need to be addressed to target the underlying causes and promote long term recovery. There are many different treatment options and settings for eating disorders and these can depend on the type of eating disorder as well as the perceived severity of the problem. Some treatment options include:

  • Physical health management / hospitalisation
  • Mental health management
  • Nutritional counselling and advice
  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family based therapy
  • Anti-depressants
  • Support groups and so on.

For more information on treatment options, visit Eating Disorders Victoria.

Further resources:

https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/sites/default/files/public/EatingDisorderResourceSchools.pdf

https://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/assets/Uploads/A5-Ed-brox-online.pdf

https://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/our-services/education/

https://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/about-us/information-and-resources/

https://www.eatingdisorders.org.au/eating-disorders/what-is-an-eating-disorder/classifying-eating-disorders/dsm-5

Jessy Hall

Jessy is the Community Engagement Coordinator at Ultimate Youth Worker. Jessy has been working as a youth worker since 2014 in a variety of different roles. His passion for youth work began whilst volunteering on a YMCA program for young indigenous leaders, after being inspired by the strength and passion of the young people on this program he immediately began his studies at Chisholm Institute of TAFE where he completed a Diploma of Youth Work. Since then, Jessy has expanded his knowledge and skills in the field by working in residential care facilities, being part of an Australian first evidence based foster care program (TFCO) and partaking in various trainings in youth mental health and other relevant areas to his work.

Jessy currently lives in Melbourne but is about to embark on the journey of a lifetime and drive around Australia in a four wheel drive with his partner. He plans to work along the way and explore the different opportunities available for youth workers in Australia. Jessy has dreams to one day start his own organisation dedicated to developing the next generation of socially engaged and passionate young people.

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Employment

Youth workers need employment

Youth work employment

Recently, a member of the Ultimate Youth Worker community and I had a great time of discussion after a misunderstanding. We spoke of how many in the community will be feeling the sting of the free market economy and austerity measures. That many youth workers are finding themselves out of work in the current political climate. We spoke of the need for youth workers to have gainful employment and it got me thinking about a few things.

Employment in Australia:

The average wage of a youth worker in Australia is $33k- $63k which is below the average wage in Australia of $60,892. We all know that social services work doesn’t pay a lot, but unless you are at the top end of the pay scale you are earning significantly less than the average employed Australian. Oh, and thats based on full-time employment.

Around 49,600 people are currently employed as Youth Workers in Australia. This includes those with many different job titles. This is set to increase to 62,800 people by 2019, according to the Department of Employment. So, youth work is a growing industry.

Youth work, much like the rest of the social sector, is very female dominated with 25.6% of Youth Workers being male and 74.3% female.

A large proportion of Australian Youth Workers have a Bachelor Degree qualification (32.6%) although this does not necessarily mean a degree in youth work. 56.9% have a diploma or less, and around 10.4% have post-graduate qualifications. What this tells us is that if you have postgraduate qualifications you are the top 10% of youth workers in Australia.

Professional youth work in Australia

There are a lot of youth workers in the sector who are part-time employees. However, in our experience the ones who are full-time employees are often those we would categorise as professional youth workers. These youth workers have a three year degree in youth work and are eligible for membership of a youth workers association. They have at least five years experience in the sector and have a solid network built up. These youth worker’s are rarely out of work unless they face adverse circumstances such as an organisation shutting down. When they are seeking employment they are usually on top of the recruiting pile.

Youth work is a profession which has begun to establish its place in the social services sector and youth workers have established themselves in core services (child protection, youth justice, local government). With all of this happening over the last couple of decades it is easy for youth workers to still feel like the new kid on the block. Youth work employment in Australia is strong, we shouldn’t believe otherwise.

The key take away for you reading this is get qualified. Minimum of a degree, but aim higher. Get experience, at least five years, even if it is part-time work. Five years appears to be the tipping point for people leaving the sector. Above all, build a wide network. If you only have experience in one small sliver of the youth sector you are always in danger of losing your job. If you have experience, understanding and networks across the sector you will never be at the mercy of austerity.


*The information provided on this page is from the Department of Employment’s Job Outlook website. All salary ranges are from Payscale. Where jobs are not exact matches, job areas have been used. This information is to be used as a guide only. 

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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