Joseph Burke

Joseph Burke

I could call the youth centre a second home, where I wouldn’t be judged, made fun of and be free to be who I really am.

Joseph Burke

Following a recommendation from my Psychologist I started attending youth services when I was 12. It was hoped this would address my issues with self-esteem by engaging in my community. In my first group, I had a great time and started to make friends, and this got me out of the house. I attended loads of fun activities each week and there was something different on special occasions like ice skating, Halloween parties and more.

I joined the Youth Council which gave us an opportunity to work on issues that affected young people. We took our own initiative on what we would do, and the group was led by the young people. Our work on mental health involved designing a video highlighting ‘5 A Day’ for your wellbeing. During my time in the group some of the skills I developed were people skills, organisational skills and presentation skills – I got the chance to design and present a presentation to 100 – 200 young people and to the Children and Young Persons Services Committee (CYPSC).

I started struggling with my mental health, youth work was of great help here. Everyone went above and beyond to support me both staff and participants. Youth work is what got me through my tough time. My mental health team said that youth work had a significant positive impact on my mental health recovery.

Youth work opened the door to Erasmus+ and gave me the opportunity to go on youth exchanges to Finland and Croatia, focusing on issues of multiculturalism and climate change. I got emotional thinking back about these opportunities as I told the worker I felt like everyone else because they didn’t discriminate against me and my mental illness.

A lot of adults think youth work is just about the activities and fail to see the development of a young person through participation. I, myself have seen first-hand how this development happened in me. I started to develop social skills and was able to start trusting people again (which I had stopped doing after the bullying). The youth worker listened to me and gave me advice on everyday issues. I also gained information and understanding of social issues that I may not have gained elsewhere, which has really influenced me.

Lastly, I could call the youth centre a second home, where I wouldn’t be judged, made fun of and be free to be who I really am.