Rhys came onto the course after being referred by his friend who was also joining our academy. He had been unemployed for about 2 months when he came to us. His most recent employment fell through due to problems with his mental health. His employment history is sporadic, with most of his jobs being labouring, warehousing or manual work. Rhys had previously only managed to hold down employment for a maximum of 6 months. He had not really been attempting any job searching of his own in the latest period of unemployment. When he came to the academy, we felt that he was maybe just doing it for something to do as opposed to wanting to get something out of it. He seemed quite quiet and didn’t want to chat much with staff in the first few days despite being relatively loud with his pals and sometimes quite disruptive. We agreed that his biggest barrier to employment currently was his mental health and sticking to something for an amount of time.

In the first week of the academy I sat down with Rhys for a 1-1 chat and he opened up really quickly and was very honest about his struggles with mental health. Having experience of a parent with the same problems as Rhys, I was able to empathise with him on a personal level, which I felt helped a lot. Rhys really struggled with focusing on a task for any amount of time but in our fitness sessions when he was set a target, he always gave 100% effort and more often than not went above and beyond to smash his target. This gave him a sense of confidence in himself and that he was able to stick to something when he put his mind to it. One big thing that Rhys was great at was timekeeping, he was always on time and rarely was off. Over the course of the academy we saw a huge change in Rhys, he was very clear about wanting to change the way he was currently, and his being open about his struggles with mental health really helped him. The fitness sessions allowed him to get rid of excess energy and he was then able to concentrate more on the slightly more ‘classroom-based’ parts of the academy. Although he came across as quite confident at the start of the academy it became apparent that he did not actually have much faith in himself at all. Seeing such a massive shift in his self-confidence during the academy was great to see. His biggest breakthrough of the academy by far was his poster that he designed for his Practical ability’s qualification. We gave them the task and Rhys went off straight away and knew exactly what he was doing with no help from any of us and produced an extremely honest poster about his personal journey. Him being brave enough to share this with all of us was such a massive step for him to take and that week he was discharged from the Crisis Team. He was sharing his poster with his grandparents and friends and girlfriend which was great.

During the academy, some extra things we did to help Rhys were – offer to go along with him to JCP to help him stay calm and not lose his temper. Arrange to get boxing gloves for him to do a boxing session. I recommended to him that he join a boxing gym and he is starting classes next Tuesday at Navarros Fitness and Fighting Gym. We also suggested that now he had been discharged he find a group that he could go to for support and suggested Andys Man Club as it has such a good reputation and it is close to where he stays.

In the final week of the academy, Rhys secured three interviews for jobs he had applied to himself with minimal help from us – William Hills Bookmakers, Ravensby Glass Manufacturers and ScotKart Indoor Race Track. He is just waiting to hear back from these opportunities. Towards the end of the academy, he did a couple of days work labouring for a company based in England, with the possibility of more work in the future. For Rhys, the headway he has made with his mental health over the course of the 6 weeks has definitely been the highlight. Seeing a young person with such motivation overcome his mental health problems was inspiring.

“Where would I be without Street League – still in my bed with a low mental health and with no motivation to look for work.”

Author: Erin Kish, Youth & Community Coach, Dundee