Youth Peer Support Specialists provide caring relationships to young people to help them cope with difficult experiences. In this story, Paul describes how he helped build a teen’s resilience after experiencing years of trauma. The name of the client in this story has been changed to protect their privacy.
Feeling Overwhelmed and Struggling to Cope
I was first introduced to Joe, an 18-year-old young man when his probation officer suggested he start Youth Peer Support Services (YPSS). She thought he would benefit from a mentor-type relationship with someone outside of the court system.
Throughout his childhood, Joe experienced challenges. From witnessing domestic violence, shuffling between his mother and father’s homes after they separated, feeling unloved by his father, and being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD), he was struggling.
As emotions from those experiences built up within Joe, he attempted to end his life. Though he attended therapy and was prescribed medications to help his diagnoses, Joe struggled to cope. He needed someone he could talk to.
Building Trust Over Shared Experiences
As Joe’s Youth Peer Support Specialist, I understood the importance of providing him with a caring relationship he could rely on, but it was up to him to initiate our interactions. Joe wasn’t required to spend time with me. He had the power to decide if or when we would meet, what we would do, what we would talk about and what goals he wanted to focus on.
When we first started meeting, Joe didn’t know how to control his anger and would physically assault people in his home. This led to frequent police interventions and strained family relationships. As we got to know each other, Joe set goals for what he wanted to achieve. One of these goals was to learn how to better control and manage his anger.
When I was younger, I struggled with mental health challenges, too. After sharing my experiences with Joe over the next few months, we developed a bond of trust. He felt comfortable confiding in me and talking about his emotions. Joe felt determined to do better. During our time together, he worked hard to achieve his goals, improve his grades and was able to discover new hobbies, including repairing ham radios, tinkering with remote control cars and going fishing. He also got his first part-time job!
Growing and Repairing Relationships
Because of YPSS and Joe’s hard work, he was released from probation and began enjoying his life again. He built a stronger relationship with his mother. They spent less time arguing with each other and more time enjoying each other’s company. When Joe achieved his goals and gained the skills necessary to maintain his recovery, he was discharged from services.
Joe said KVC’s Youth Peer Support Services were completely different from any other services he had received before. He knew I was fully invested in him, that I truly cared about him and his progress toward his goals. When reflecting on our time together, he said:
“Without you, I don’t know what I would have done.”
It was so amazing to watch him open up and learn more about himself. Getting to know kids and teens who are struggling with their mental health, teaching them about resilience, and seeing how they grow during our time together is unbelievably fulfilling.
KVC Nebraska Youth Peer Support Services
Youth Peer Support Services (YPSS) helps children and teens maintain wellness and recovery. Youth who participate in this program are paired with a Peer Support Specialist who also experienced mental health challenges while in the youth services system. This specialist assists youth in understanding aspects of recovery and resiliency, and how to apply these skills to achieve life goals. Along with individual direct support, participants also have the opportunity to participate in Peer Support Groups.