8th February 2022
One in five young people in the UK experience domestic abuse, which is recognised as an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE), by the time they reach the age of 18. The mental health impacts can be lifelong. The theme of Children’s Mental Health Week this year is ‘Growing Together’ so our Young Person’s Support Worker, Pat, has written about why it’s so important to recognise the effects of domestic abuse on children, why we need to support them to grow through their emotions and how her role at SATEDA has helped her grow too.
For young people who witness domestic abuse and experience it at home, the impact on their mental health can be very damaging. The trauma experienced can affect every part of what they do and how they think because feelings and emotions become confusing and overwhelming. Continually being on high alert in case something might happen can be exhausting mentally, and physically draining. This means young people can feel isolated and anxious, or embarrassed to talk to someone, and it can become difficult to concentrate on school work, or socialise with friends. The struggle to cope with this can result in some young people self-harming or more drastic action.
It is so important to have opportunities to develop our knowledge and understanding of how traumatic experiences can affect us. In the same way we listen to the women we support, their children who have witnessed and experienced abuse at home need to be listened to and supported in a safe and respectful way. This opens the door to better mental health and the young person recognising their strengths and so many positive things about themselves. The growth I see in the young people I work with is inspiring: it allows them to develop in self confidence, and enjoy positive experiences and opportunities in their lives, which seemed so out of reach before.
For me as a Young Person’s Support Worker, I continually find myself inspired by the young people that I support. We spend time thinking about what feelings we all have, and learn how to manage the more uncomfortable feelings that can be too strong to cope with at times. We practise calm breathing, and other relaxing strategies that can be used anywhere and can be lifelong tools to promote good mental health. I too have benefitted from trying new ways to feel calm when I get those big feelings like anxiety or worry.
Exploring with young people how our five senses affect our daily experiences has also been so helpful when talking about things that might trigger our feelings and memories. Every day I learn more about the impact that domestic abuse has on young people and their mental health. As my awareness and understanding develops, I become more effective as an adult supporting the young people.
It is so important to recognise that each young person is unique and they each have a right to be heard, to feel safe and to have a good quality of life.