Children North East is putting out a call for more positive male role models to step up for their Youth Link Peer Mentoring Scheme to help combat social isolation and mental health problems amongst young men.

With male suicide rates still well above the rates for females, Children North East believes it is absolutely vital for vulnerable young people to have positive male role models in their lives, yet there just aren’t enough young men volunteering to be mentors.

Only 24 per cent of the current intake of volunteers are young men – despite the fact that there are more males than females referred into the Peer Mentoring Youth Link Service.

Sad teenager

Children North East created the Peer Mentoring Service thanks to funding from amongst others, players of People’s Postcode Lottery; Children In Need and Northumberland Children’s Trust.

Youth Link is a free service which helps to improve communication and relationships between young people aged 11 to 18 years old and their families, to help them make friends, strengthen their confidence and self-esteem.

Children North East matches young people with a trained volunteer who will help them to look at their difficulties and helps them to come up with solutions to their problems. 

The right person to talk to

Because adults often don’t understand what it’s like to be a young person today, another young person nearer their own age can be the right person to talk to.

Lynn Renwick, Service Manager for Children North East’s Young People’s Service said:

If we can get young men to talk about how they feel earlier, like they do in mentoring, then suicide could be prevented in later life.

“Males are so important to Youth Link, because many of the referrals we receive for young males are quite often referred because they lack positive male role models in their life. “

It's a great feeling to help

Joe Cozens, a 23-year-old Northumbria University student who spent two and a half years as a peer mentor for Children North East’s Youth Link Service agreed: “It’s far easier to talk to someone who is only a couple of years older because you feel they get what you are going through.

"I would definitely encourage others to consider mentoring. From a selfish viewpoint, to feel like you’ve helped a person, that’s a great feeling. And the skills I’ve gained from peer mentoring have been really valuable."

Joe, who has a politics degree from Nottingham University, is now studying for a Masters in Social Work and would like to pursue a career in that field, because of his experiences as a mentor.

Peer mentoring showed me that actually I really enjoy working with young people and working with challenging situations and that maybe I should make a career out of it.

You don’t need to be highly qualified to become a mentor though. Joe added: “I think everybody has the skills to become a mentor. Communication skills definitely help – and the ability to empathise with someone even though they are different to you, to understand the reasons behind why they feel the way they do – and just a desire to listen to people’s stories.”

Callum Thompson

Callum Thompson, also 23, from Blyth, is another peer mentor with Youth Link in Northumberland, who wanted to make a difference to other young people after experiencing problems with bullying at school, for which he received counselling.

He said:

It’s not about doing something special, it’s about spending time with that young person and just being yourself.

"We do regular stuff like going bowling or going for something to eat at Subway, just giving them a chance to relax and talk.”

Read our full interview with Callum

Both Joe and Callum have encountered young people facing tough problems.

“Self-harm, autism, homelessness – pretty powerful stuff – but there is support and training available so we’re not completely on our own with it,” said Callum.

Sign up to be a mentor

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