Is it time to take a holiday?

I am wrecked! It has been a long semester so far. Dozens of youth work students pushing hard to finish their qualifications and dozens more just beginning. Mixed in with this a number of our clients have been defunded by the federal government and many are considering closure and mergers. Our individual supervision clients are struggling with the insecurity of the youth sector and wondering what the future will hold. Amongst all of this our staff are looking at having an extended holiday.

When the world is falling apart around you sometimes the best thing to do is get away. Vicarious trauma affects us all differently. For me I slowly get less excited about waking up in the morning until I can’t think of anything but the negatives. For others it is the sense that their job and clients are just crap. Whatever your go to downfall when push comes to shove we all come crashing down. Thats why our employers give us holidays!

One of the biggest issues we find when working with youth workers is that they don’t use their holidays. Many of our clients have at least a years holidays accrued if not more and when asked have no intention of using them in the next three months. The main excuse I hear is that our clients need us. The fact that 100% of them were doing life fine before we got involved in their lives never enters the picture. It is like, if we weren’t there all our young people would die or end up in prison. So we run ourselves into the ground and give them sub standard service along the way.

Your given the holidays so that you can rest and rejuvenate. If you do not use them in the year you are given them you are asking for trouble. rest and reflection are keys to longevity in a career that so easily could sap you of your care.

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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Children's Court

Youth work in the court system: its extremely important

Today I took a bunch of youth work students on a tour of the Melbourne Children’s Court. The Children’s Court of Victoria is a specialist court with two divisions dealing with cases involving children and young people. The Family Division hears applications relating to the protection and care of children and young persons at risk, and applications for intervention orders. The Criminal Division hears matters relating to criminal offending by children and young persons between the ages of 10 and 18. These courts had been a large part of my youth work career from my days working in drug and alcohol outreach to my time in family services. It is also a place that as a youth worker you hope you never have to enter as it means one of your young people has been abused or has done something they probably shouldn’t have.

Children's Court

As we were on our tour our guide mentioned that the role of a good youth worker in the children’s court was extremely important. Whether that was a youth worker writing clear and concise case notes and then providing quality testimony to the court on the work done with a young person in an abuse case or as a character reference for a young person facing incarceration because of a criminal matter a youth worker provides professional care and support in a setting that could at times feel trying. Aside from this our guide stated that it is often a lone youth worker sitting aside a young person that helps a judge to see opportunities for rehabilitation.

[Tweet “Good youth workers are extremely important to the effectiveness of the children’s court”]

There are many who would say that youth work is a generalist profession and any work that is not generalist is something else. We at Ultimate Youth Worker believe that it is in the ‘nitty gritty’ times such as appearances in a court that youth work really hits its stride. Our generalist skills set of relationship building and support provision is used extremely well in this important context. After all it is about our young people and their best interests.

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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Youth Worker passion

What is within you?

All to often we are judged by our pasts. Most often by the decisions we have made which went awry. We look behind us at those decisions and we are gripped with regrets. We wonder what we were thinking! We look at our friends, our families, our education, our …. we wonder if they were the right choices. Our young people go through this and we go through this. Hindsight is always 20/20! In youth work as a sector we have this hindsight too. We have seen major issues in our sector and many of them we still cringe about.

When we get past guilty thoughts of our past we begin to wonder about our future. We hope for a better day than the days before. We wonder what the next step in our work, our education, our families, our lives will be. We begin to plan what the future will hold. We write lists, flowcharts, memos and we dream about a future that has not come to pass. Our young people go through this and we go through this and we go through this. In the youth sector many journal articles and books over the past decade have dreamt of a future for the youth sector. It is often a utopian view that we will professionalise and all will be wondrous. For the most part it looks good. The future often does.

Youth Worker passion

What lies within you?

The past and future are of little consequence however to that which lies within us. The spark that keeps us going in the here and now. The passion that drives us forward. The wonderment that spurs us on to love and good deeds. The wisdom that helps us out of bed each morning. This is one of the areas that our young people struggle with most. The reason for being. It is often the thing we question most too. What drives us.

What is it that lies within you?

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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Walk Away

Motivational Monday: Walk away!

Walk Away

Walk away from anything or anyone who takes away from your joy. Life is too short to put up with fools- Unknown

My career as a youth worker has always pushed the boundaries. Whether it was pushing social workers in family services work to listen to the voice of the young people in the clientele or getting local government youth services to use more social media I have always pushed for the next evolution in working with young people. I have also pushed the boundaries with other youth workers. Asking them to be more and do more than they ever thought they were able to do. I have asked them to be more professional, more qualified and advocate more for their profession. In all of this I have never asked anyone to do more than I would ask of myself. I take immense joy from developing myself, others and the youth sector!

[Tweet “When you get people pushing you to do the status quo, walk away.”]

However, whenever change is sought people like to try to drag you back to the status quo. Walk away! They like to take your joy and squash it. Walk away! Whether it is people telling you that you can’t do something because it hasn’t been done before or perhaps they say that you wanting to be better is some sort of patriarchal step towards the abyss. I remember speaking at a conference and being told that no one could be an Ultimate Youth Worker in the current political climate so why even try? At a meeting of those who want to see a professional association of youth workers I was told that we could only become a functioning group by having a monopoly from one university with one focus on youth provision. It is times like these that really take away from my joy.

In youth work there are times when we have our joy attacked. Unfortunately it is usually by the people who should be our biggest supporters. When you get people pushing you to do the status quo, people who harsh your buzz, people who want to steal your joy… walk away. Life is too short!

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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Welcome to 2015 and a few of our goals

Welcome to 2015! Woo Hoo. Well 2014 throughout Australia and indeed the world saw youth work under the pump. In Australia we saw funding and service provision cuts to deplorable standards making many youth workers question if they are in the right industry. In the UK we saw the Early Day Motion 488 and the debate on statutory youth services funding come to the fore. In the US the debate of where youth work fits in informal education versus standard education is still bubbling away with not much in the way of resolution in sight. These are just a few of the issues which are happening the world over. 2014 was hard.

2015 brings with it some hope. In Victoria where we are based a new state government has come to power which historically has supported youth work and young people. At Ultimate Youth Worker we are seeing a real collegiate push from academia to cement youth work as a profession coming not just in the form of a few journal articles but clear steps of sustainable development. We are also seeing more qualified and passionate youth workers coming into the sector who are willing and able to challenge the status quo than we have seen in years. These are truly exciting times to be a youth worker.

2015 fireworks

2015 is going to be an interesting year for Ultimate Youth Worker as well. We will continue to provide our supervision service and our Employee Assistance Program as we have for the last two years. We will continue our blog posts however it looks like we might be doing it a little less frequently. Our podcast which has been an on again off again project will relaunch in March. We are also composing some training videos which we hope to have on the website and on youtube for you all to use as you want. We are also looking at opportunities to provide more online training opportunities including webinars for you to access affordable training. We are currently looking to provide direct service to young people in 2015 through some tender opportunities which have come up. Finally, we will be providing a course in basic drug and alcohol for anyone who wants to productively help young people work through their struggles.

If there is any way we can support you personally or perhaps your organisation contact us to discuss what we can do for you. We wish you a bumper 2015 and a year of care and continuing success.

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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Knowing mental health: Depression

Knowing mental health: Depression

Depression can be kicked

Depression

We continue mental health month at Ultimate youth Worker with the most spoken about of brain disorders, Depression. Depression goes by many different names and it stalks people with the skill of a bloodhound. It chases you down in everyday situations and squashes your ability to reach your goals. The most disturbing quality of all is it slowly stops them of life. When we speak of depression as a disorder of the brain we are speaking of the everyday crippling sense that the world is going to squash us that some of us feel that stop us from living our life to the full.

The common feature of all depressive disorders is the presence of sad, empty, or irritable mood, accompanied by somatic (physical) and cognitive (mental) changes that significantly affect the individuals capacity to function. The black dog and its friends spend most of their time making our mood low which in turn makes us physically and mentally feel like we are walking in mud. Our ability to deal with the day to day stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and make a contribution to our community becomes limited and if it persists can become a chronic condition.

[Tweet “#UltimateMentalHealth Do you understand depressive disorders in young people? #youthwork”]

The major differences among the depressive disorders are issues of duration (how long the symptoms last for), timing (whats happening for you at the time), or presumed aetiology (the causes, or manner of causation of a condition). Symptoms of depressive disorders can last from two weeks to a number of years. The onset of the symptoms can be a certain time of the month through to a significant bereavement and anything in between.

Major Depressive Disorder

…represents the classic condition known to most of us in this group of disorders. It is characterised by discrete episodes of at least two weeks duration (although most episodes last considerably longer) involving clear cut changes in affect, cognition, and neurovegetative functions and inter-episode remissions. While these brain disorders can be diagnosed as one off episodes they are more often recurrent in a majority of cases.

As youth workers we will work with many young people with depressive disorders. We must have a strong understanding of the diagnostic criteria, treatment options and recovery planning for young people living with depression. We can then support them to make informed decisions about the treatment planning and recovery orientation. We owe it to them to be well informed.

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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Knowing mental health: Anxiety disorders

Anxiety is a problem faced by around one in ten young Australians aged 18-25.

For young people aged 13-17, the figure is approximately one in twenty-five. Anxiety is a normal emotion experienced by everyone at some stage. It is an emotional anticipation of future threats. It is often associated with muscle tension and vigilance in preparation for future danger and cautious or avoidant behaviours. Anxiety disorders differ from developmentally normative fear or anxiety by being excessive or persisting. However, Anxiety disorders come when a persons level of anxiety is heightened over an extended period of time beyond developmentally appropriate periods. Anxiety disorders differ from one another in the types of objects or situations that induce fear, anxiety, or avoidance behaviour, and the associated cognitive ideation (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Knowing mental health: Anxiety

What do you know about anxiety?

When our young people gain a diagnosis and tell us that they have anxiety it could be one of a number of disorders which come under this umbrella. According to the DSM5 the following diagnoses come under anxiety disorders:

    • Separation anxiety disorder
    • Selective mutism
    • Specific phobia
    • Social anxiety disorder
    • Panic disorder
    • Agoraphobia
    • Generalised anxiety disorder
    • Substance/medication induced anxiety disorder
    • Anxiety disorder due to another medical condition
    • Other specified anxiety disorder
    • Unspecified anxiety disorder

[Tweet “14% of females and 8% of males have experienced an anxiety disorder in the last twelve months”]

We aren’t going to go into detail about all of these here (Phew). What we want to give you is an overview. In time we will go into some detail on these disorders.

Approximately twice as many young women are diagnosed with anxiety disorders as males. 14% of females and 8% of males have experienced an anxiety disorder in the last twelve months this is equivalent to around 435,000 young people in Australia every year.  This mean we are extremely likely to have clients with an anxiety disorder during our career. Anxiety is the number one mental health issue we will find ourselves working with.

Anxiety disorders often have comorbid disorders alongside them so it is important for us to understand the extent of the issues surrounding an anxiety diagnosis. Get to know the diagnostic criteria for these disorders. Know as much as you can about them. Your young people will thank you for it.

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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Anxiety

Knowing mental health: Anxiety

Anxiety

Don’t empty today of its strength

We kick off mental health week with the most prevalent of disorders, Anxiety. Anxiety robs people of their ability to cope with the turmoil of everyday situations. It robs them of the ability to reach their potential. Most of all it robs them of life. When we speak of anxiety as a brain disorder we are not speaking of the everyday anxieties we feel when we have to do something like driving in heavy traffic or speaking in front of a group. We are speaking of the crippling anxieties that some of us feel that stop us from living life to the full.

When our thinking becomes so disordered by anxiety we cannot do even the most basic tasks. We cannot get out of bed, leave the house or even hold a conversation. Our ability to think clearly and rationally is basically gone. Your limbic system takes control and your primal fight or flight instincts kick in. your frontal lobe, the part of the brain that orders rational thought, has been overridden. All the fears and failures you can imagine are now in control of your thought and actions. You are now in a state of complete primal anxiety.

Add to all of this the fact that adolescence is already a time of storm and stress and we have a setting that is ready to ignite.  Our young people are already experiencing changes in their brains which they are struggling to deal with and on top of that anxiety is nipping at their heals. Any strength that they had to face the daily challenges of being an adolescent is torn away to deal with their anxieties. Grades, relationships, groups, fears, all of these and more conspire against our young people. They set them up for worry and dread.

As youth workers we often provide a first point of contact for young people to address their anxieties. By developing a trusting relationship where young people can confide in us their fears we can support them to begin a journey of recovery. Understanding the triggers, diagnosis and treatment options available to our young people assists us to guide them through the maze of service provision to find the right support options for them. It gives them back the strength they need to beat their anxiety.

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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youth workers need to stop mental health stigma

In my class on mental health I often ask if we are beating back the stigma of mental illness. Students often say no… but after some thought and discussion they often change their mind. “We are beating back the stigma of anxiety, depression and body image” they would say. It is then that I ask them, “What would you do if you were running a youth program and one of the participants had a psychotic break?” Most of the students with fear in their eyes speak about keeping all the other participants safe while seeking help for the one having the break. This leads me to ask what they would do if one of their young people was depressed. No fear here, they would just get alongside the young person. Stigma is still very much at the forefront of challenges for mental health.

I agree with my students, we have made leaps forward. But, we still have a long way to go. While we have made great steps forward in areas such as anxiety and depression; eating disorders, schizophrenia and personality disorders to name a few are still very stigmatised. Much of the stigma still comes from fear. We fear that which we don’t know. When was the last time you saw a schizophrenic portrayed as “normal” in the media. they are always touted as weird, scary or worse. What about people with personality disorders how are they portrayed on film?

As youth workers we believe that young people have enough issues without having to add stigma to the list. However we as much as any member of the general public stigmatise mental illness. We don’t mean to do it, but in our fear we allow our prejudices to come to the fore. Fear comes from our lack of knowledge. As the general public knows very little about mental health so it is with youth workers. Even though our clientele are likely to have mental health issues we do not really study it and unless we spend significant personal resources we will have minimal understanding of brain disorders at best.

Mental health is important

We must have an understanding of brain disorders

To stop the stigma of mental illness we must have a solid understanding of the causes, diagnostic criteria, treatment options and recovery options. We need to be better than we are right now. Unfortunately this means going against the grain. I was speaking to an educator recently who believed that because youth workers don’t diagnose we don’t need to know how a diagnosis is formed. It is this antiquated idea of youth work and how we support young people that causes stigma. The same educator could not see why we need to have more than mental health first aid as it is psychologists who will do the work. I mentioned that it was youth workers who often hold the cases and that most psychologists will only give a dozen sessions.

We need to have a better understanding of mental health. It stops the stigma!

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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Life is what happens to you while your busy making other plans.

Plans are important

I was talking with a student of mine today about the need for youth workers to have plans. Career plans. Professional development plans. Self-care plans. Plans for working with clients. Plans for networking. Plans, plans, plans. It dawned on me as I said this that most youth workers I know don’t really do this. We sit around and lament that nothing is happening or we spend our time up to our neck in crisis.

Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance

plans are important
Planning meeting in progress

Making plans

If we are to excel as youth workers, to truly become “Ultimate” we must plan our work and work our plan. If we do not plan we are at the mercy of whatever storm comes our way. When we don’t have plans we are saying blatantly that we do not care what happens in the future.

We need to become proficient at forward planning. It doesn’t mean we have to have it all worked out… But we have to start somewhere.

Here are a few places for us to begin our plans.

Career development: Begin by getting a handle on the type of youth work career you want. Then work out where you are starting from. Think about the depth and breadth of your qualifications, the experience you have and your values. Then plan for your future. Listen to this podcast to help you out with this task.

Self Care Plan: There are really only a few things our team harp on about and at the top of the list is self care. Youth workers really struggle with this concept so its a good place to begin a plan. Try this one.

Networking: A youth worker is only as good as the network they keep. Ultimate Youth Workers know that they need a solid network. It helps us to provide the most exceptional service to our young people. Plan who you need on your network and use a tool like LinkedIn to manage it.

With these quick plans in hand you will be better than 90% of your colleagues who fail to plan even a little. But don’t rest on your laurels. Get out a piece of paper and start planning today.

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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