Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Young people, pregnancy, punk and participation

Yesterday Brook launched its new evening and weekend sexual health services for young people in Stockton on Tees - a really exciting initiative funded by Stockton’s Teenage Pregnancy Partnership and the Stockton Renaissance and Neighbourhood Renewal Fund.

The launch was led by young people aged between 15 and 17 who had made a film about sex and sexual health for the event. They had also come up with ideas for a range of activities and entertainment, and got their friends involved (including an up and coming young punk band who covered songs by the Buzzcocks and the Clash). The energy and enthusiasm they all brought to the event was infectious and invaluable.

I listened to two of the young people talking to each other: 'just been talking to her [nodded head towards a woman on other side of the room] for ages. She was really interested in what I had to say about sexual health.' She beamed as she spoke - clearly pleased that someone had listened.

The same two young women were also part of a group interviewed by their local radio station, and did a great job of explaining succinctly to the reporter why young people in Stockton needed these new services. ‘We don’t want to go somewhere where you might bump into your mum or your friend’s mum’, explained one, ‘we need somewhere just for young people’. ‘Teenage pregnancy is really common round here’, explained her male friend, and another proudly told the reporter she had just done a chlamydia test, explaining why it was important that other young people did the same.

Later I spoke to them and asked if they had enjoyed the afternoon. They had - the best thing, they told me, was giving their views and being listened to by adults, and they were really pleased they might make a difference for other young people. So easy to do, so important and yet still so many young people are not involved in decision making and service development.

Do we really think we can get services and education right without seeking the ideas and help of those young people we are trying to support?

7 comments: said...

I have a four and a half year old niece and even at this age she has views and opinions that need to be heard. It is really important that she learns to make choices and gets activley involved in decision making so she can understand the impact of her choices be they good or bad. Even though she is many many years off sexual relationships, helping her build confidence in our own abilities to choose, and supporting her self esteem through praise and encouragement are vital early steps.

Luke Small - ED & Founder - JYRT International said...

Young people are a complex audience to please and often a difficult demographic to capture a true reality image of.

The thoughts, actions, likings and indeed dislikings of young people are varied and never stable. The only way we can be sure of their true intentions is to speak with them, be open, transparent and true in our words of promise.

We need to encapsulate young people when deciding on the provisions of other services and working alongside them in the implementation of such. Young people require a great deal of help in many aspects of their lives, even though they are recognised for their high levels of independence.

As a young person myself, and a service provider for young people, I see the complexities of change on a daily basis.

These changes are constantly adjusting, varying from one extreme to another and can only ever be followed, when young people trust us to an extent that they are wholly open and honest.

jesson said...

I think that your blog is a very interesting and a great place to begin some exciting discussions.
I was recently speaking to a friend who works part time in a sexual health clinic (not Brook) inside a school in the North of England. She was telling me about a young girl of 17 who was pregnant. The girl was determined to have the baby while my friend was trying to explain the impact it would have on her life and was suggesting she would benefit more from having an abortion. My friend does not have any children and I have a young child and am now more aware of the impact an abortion could have on the mental health of a woman. I read recently that woman who have had an abortion were more likely to suffer from depression.
This is a very difficult and controversial topic and I would like to hear what Brook's feels about it.

MelbourneVoice said...

Can I just say how invaluable a service I think you are providing. I recall the lack of education and support that I had growing up as an adolescent and the limited number of outlets that I had to talk to people about my sexual orientation and health issues. I think the more opportunities that the younger generation have to discuss these somewhat sensitive issues, the more informed and vigilent they will be when it comes to their sexual health.

Dona Milne said...

I am interested in your comments about listening to young people. We try to find ways of making sure our services repond to what young people want and after consulting several hundred young people we found that they weren't really asking for much. Essentially, they would like a young people specific and young people friendly place which provides confidential services with staff you can trust. We have been developing a network of drop-in services for young people in Lothian which are based on what young people want and in places that they go. You can find out more at or come to the Brook conference in Edinburgh in May.

Martha said...

I wanted to respond to a question raised by Jesson in her comment above.

I’m a counsellor at a Brook Centre and I recognise that abortion can be a highly emotive area. Brook believes that young women should have the choice concerning their unplanned pregnancy. We offer a non-judgemental, confidential service with trained counsellors who remain impartial and support women whatever their choice. Counsellors inform young women of the choices available and give them all the relevant information. By discussing all the choices and helping the client to clarify their thoughts and feelings, we aim to empower them to make the decision that is right for them. We offer support whatever the decision.

Emotional distress and mental health issues can arise as a result of a variety of life events. There is no substantial evidence to suggest women who have terminations are more likely to suffer distress than those who don’t. What is vital is that the young woman has had enough time and space to explore her situation and been empowered to make her own decision. Young women who have been pressurised into a termination are likely to have far more emotional issues as a result.

I hope this is useful and explains how we work with young people at Brook. Please do keep your comments coming.

Raaj said...

Teens getting pregnant: bad. Teens having babies: good. If this makes no sense to you, wake up and smell the Enfamil. The teen birthrate, after falling for fourteen years, is up 3 percent, a phenomenon perhaps not unrelated to the fact that abstinence-only sex ed, although demonstrably ineffective at preventing sexual activity and linked to higher rates of unprotected sex, is the only sex ed taught in 35 percent of our schools.