Help at hand for youth

Johann Kikillus, Ocean View

Due to the nature of my work, I usually deal with the most extreme cases.

Children, teenagers and adults get brought to me when they have found themselves in potentially life- threatening circumstances. When I speak to them, I often wonder to myself why it had to reach near death before someone acted.

Over the past seven years, I have raised the plight of the youth in the far south everywhere I go – in newspapers, on radio, public talks and documentaries. But still, the challenges remain.

A common misconception is that I only deal with so -called previously disadvantaged youth, but, in reality, the number of youth that I have dealt with from middle class homes from Fish Hoek to Kommetjie has been increasing at an alarming rate, especially over the past two years.

In my attempts to understand why these youth do not go looking for help earlier, I have discovered several facts that I wish to share.

These points are made by youth from all racial groups of the far south:

1. Our youth are carrying serious issues such as suicidal thoughts, depression, paralysing anxiety and fear.

2. Our youth do not believe that there is anyone that they can talk to. The vast majority that I deal with say that they do not feel comfortable speaking to their parents, school counsellors/educators or even religious leaders.

3. Many of them use alcohol, dagga or over-the-counter medication to “numb” what they are feeling. This obviously leads to addiction and never addresses the problem.

4. Many of those that I speak to have no idea what the future will bring. They are unable to even dream about what they want to become.

5. They feel judged and misunderstood by adults and leaders.

The list is much longer. My point is this: We have several thousand youth in our valley, and it appears to me that only a tiny minority are part of a support system such as a youth group. My biggest concern is that they are carrying “adult-sized” problems such as suicidal thoughts and trauma. A greater concern is that they are not dealing with these issues. Undealt with emotional pain has a nasty way of manifesting in a whole range of ways – many of them destructive.

What I am writing here is not new – it affects youth from all over the world.

The only way that these problems can be rectified is if adults take the time to win back the youth’s trust and open the lines of communication again. We must not be so quick to judge and condemn.

Ideally, I should never have to deal with a young person because their support system would have stepped in and nipped the problem in the bud.

I want to especially ask that school governing bodies and religious institutions prioritise the emotional well-being of our young people with a sense of urgency. We are always happy to assist when required.