I was leaving a Brook Centre yesterday just as it was opening. About 12 young people had settled in the waiting room within the first few minutes. As always I listened and watched for the intimidating young people that the papers write about – I couldn’t see them. I looked for the noisy and uncontrollable youth that people talk about on the bus – I couldn’t see them, and I looked for the sexually irresponsible young men that dads warn their daughters about – there were none to be seen.
The young women and young men sitting in this waiting room were waiting patiently for their turn, talking to each other and supporting one another. They were excited, nervous, worried, brave, responsible and respectful. Are they unusual? Not in my experience. As I left the Centre I said to the receptionist that I would love to bring those adults who fear or condemn young people to observe this waiting room. Her response: ‘as long as you are good to young people, they are good to you. The trouble is, if you bring someone who doesn’t like young people into the room, they smell it and the mood changes, so it wouldn’t really work’.
Many of our European neighbours have very different attitudes to young people. They want young people to be happy, to be safe and responsible in their intimate relationships. We rightfully continue to look for evidence of the effectiveness of our work but how do you measure the impact of care, respect and attention on young people’s sexual health? A randomised control trial won’t do it – but if you want to visit a Brook waiting room you will see that it works. As Dona Milne said in her reply to an earlier blog yes we need to involve young people and listen to their views, but they don’t really ask for much, a bit of respect, a friendly service and people who like them. I agree with her and in my experience when you really enjoy young people’s company you keep on learning, you keep on living and you keep on laughing. A win-win situation.