Thursday, January 07, 2010

For love of Sam

Last night I got an unexpected phone call from a young man I worked with a good few years ago - let's call him Sam. During the time I was working with him he turned up at my office with rope marks on his neck - he had tried to hang himself. I took him straight down to A&E and given there was no specialist unit for young people we were sent to the adult psychiatric unit. Last night he reminded me of what happened, an inpatient, an older woman, coming up and asking him for sex. The whole environment was difficult and very disturbing for him. He got some help, but never really enough. He ultimately ended up in prison on a short sentence. Since then he has been in and out of a number of relationships. He has three children by different mothers and another one on the way. He has no job and his criminal record doesn't help. But he is desperate to get himself a job and be able to support his partner and children. He is at heart a lovely lad, who has suffered terrible rejection in his childhood and just needs the right opportunity to get his life back on track.

I have to confess, I came off the phone a little tearful, as ever pondering, how many other Sam's are there out there? Young men who for what ever reason get themselves into trouble and then, even when they want to turn their lives around, find the support really isn't there to help them. One of the saddest things Sam told me was that one of the good things about being in prison was that he actually got some real help with his mental health issues. They got him on to cognitive behavioural therapy and he was able to come off his medication. But since he came out he hadn't had anything like the same support. And yet the rest of his description of his time inside was horrifying. As someone who had suffered bullying in the past, he was easy prey.

Sam told me that what he really wanted to do was to get involved with a project that helped divert other young people from ending up in prison, but he didn't really know where to start.

At the moment there are even more young Sams out there, nearly 1 million unemployed young people, a good proportion who have other challenges, such as having been in the criminal justice system, being homeless, being failed by school, having disabilities, all factors that will make it even more difficult for them to find a job. Young people whose dreams are not very different from the rest of us, to have a job, a family, security, to be happy.

At a time when we are all being told how difficult it is going to be, how "savage cuts" will have to be made in our public services, lets not forget those who are likely to suffer far more than the rest of us. Young people whose lives may not be blighted just for a few years, but for a generation.

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