Posted by Br Patrick McCarthy FSC
on 18 January 2021
Br Patrick McCarthy, Chaplain Oakhill College, sat down with 23-year-old Indy to discuss her role as a Kids Helpline Counsellor.
Kids Helpline has been operating since 1991 and is a service provided by yourtown. yourtown formally known as BoysTown was founded by the De La Salle Brothers.
"yourtown is a charity with service young people can access to find jobs, learn skills, become great parents and live safer, happier lives. We believe every young person has the right to a brighter future" - Tracy Adams, CEO
What is your role - i.e. how would you explain what you do to someone you just met?
As a Kids Helpline Counsellor, I support children and young people from all walks of life to talk about anything that is happening for them and to work with them around realising personal goals.
What's unique about this type of counselling?
At the Kids Helpline, we focus on what the young person wants to talk about, and we allow them to lead the direction of the calls. We do this by ensuring we check-in with the young people during our sessions, to make sure we are hearing their needs as well as what they hope to achieve from a session with a Kids Helpline Counsellor.
Sounds like you have a great chance to make a positive difference to others' lives - can you tell me about a time when that had a big impact on you?
Reflecting on my role as a Kids Helpline Counsellor, I feel sincerely privileged to be in a position to hear young people's stories and to facilitate a safe space for them to share what can be the most vulnerable aspects of their life. For many young people, trusting others with their story and deepest parts of their life can be difficult for many reasons, however, when they get to a place where they are comfortable and feel safe enough to share this with me, I feel privileged.
What drew you to this field of work?
Ever since my primary school days, I have loved listening other people and being a support for them particularly those who may have been isolated by others. I'm passionate about really understanding young people and what has shaped or motivated them to become the person that they are today.
What is the biggest challenge in the role?
The most challenging aspect of the role would be working with young people who are in pain, facing adversity, while recognising my limited capacity to change their circumstances. However, I am hopeful that despite this, I might be able to make that small difference that enables a young person to stay safe.
What characteristics are important in a role like this?
As a Kid's Helpline Counsellor, it is important to be empathetic and respectful in our work with young people. We need to be relatable in the way we communicate, non-judgemental and accepting of all people. Being flexible and having a sense of humour is a pre-requisite.
Have you seen any positive ripple effects in the work you've done?
Yes, I have. One example of this would be when a young person called Kids Helpline for the first time and shared their experience of mental health which they had not shared with anyone else because of their fear (and unfortunately the reality) of judgement. Since our first session, this young person has developed the confidence to seek further support from specialist services and to improve their mental health and life generally.
What has been the most surprising thing for you about this role?
The most surprising thing has been how much insight young people have into the situation or issue they're experiencing. They are often able to express positive and constructive ways to work towards solutions, when offered the opportunity to do so. So often, the voices of young people are ignored or diminished because they are not yet adults, however, I believe that young people often have creative and positive ways of working through tough times.
What advice do you share with others that you need to remind yourself to keep doing / practising yourself?
I believe that personal boundaries (i.e. physical, emotional and mental limits) are crucial, not just for Social Workers, Counsellors or Psychologists; but for everyone's health and wellbeing. While listening, helping and supporting others is an important part of relationships, we need to be conscious of the energy we are outputting and recognise when we need to take care of ourselves. As the saying goes, "you can't pour from an empty cup..." and I believe personal boundaries are the key to self-care!
What are some of the most common struggles/ issues that you are hearing in this time? How can young people and their families manage these?
The most common issues young people face in these current times include struggles with mental health concerns, emotional well-being and suicide-related concerns. We need to continue to encourage young people and families to keep the communication channels open and to ask for the help they need to move forward.