Youth work and mental health – how can youth workers support young people?

Dec 19, 2023News

The final presentation of ,,Let’s Talk’’ project in Serbia happened as a part of a 3-day training course, meant to support youth workers in understanding their role in youth mental health, their professional boundaries and how their expertise can be used to promote and strengthen youth mental health.

32 representatives of CSOs and youth offices from all over Serbia – youth workers and other professionals working with young people, have gathered in Belgrade. Some of these organisations already have extensive experience in supporting youth mental health, while some participants decided to participate because their young people have expressed needs for this type of support and they want to be prepared to respond to such needs. The CSOs gathered work with young people coming from different socio-economic backgrounds, national minorities and gender identities.

The training brought them new knowledge on how to identify and plan short- and long-term interventions, on the topic of youth mental health, as well as what techniques they can use to support young people going through acute mental health crises. They practised how to conduct one-on-one conversations with young people in need of support, and worked on mapping existing services and relevant actors in their local communities.

Besides promoting the project, the conducted research and some of its findings, CZOR also presented the youth workers with Handbook, Curriculum and Let’s Talk platform, as tools they can use to further build and strengthen their capacities. The youth workers were particularly interested in the Workbook, as a tool they can share with their own beneficiaries.

While mapping their own ‘support circles’ in local communities, youth workers and youth office coordinators emphasised how important it is for them to have working contacts and relationships with different actors and stakeholders (not just mental health experts, but also from other professions), in order to provide young people with the best services possible. However, they’ve stated that in many of their communities there aren’t any free or even quality mental health services, so it’s very helpful to have an online platform where they can find these contacts and additional resources. The participants expressed their desire to receive all of the resources and the link to the platform, so they can explore it further and promote it to their partners and young people using their services.

Overall, youth workers and youth office coordinators see this kind of training as a necessity, in order to improve their work and provide young people with the best possible care and support. As they’ve requested a more extensive, longer training in this topic, CZOR will definitely use the knowledge and resources developed in the ,,Let’s Talk’’ project to improve the quality of work of CSOs and youth offices in Serbia, in order to ensure better mental health support for young people.