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How to be a young person’s cheerleader

Writer: Aaliyah Glasgow (Co-Founder, Youth Engagement Lead, Mental Health Advocate)

When it comes to mental health and well-being support for young people, I believe everyone needs a Cheerleader! And that’s one of the many roles you could play in a young person’s life to show your support.

I met ‘Anna’ through my Progression Routes youth work role – where I support young people to progress onto their next step despite any challenging situations. I provide the right support, Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) to access relevant career and education opportunities and pathways.

I had the chance to cheer Anna on throughout 2022 when she engaged in our service. Anna reached out to me to get 1:1 support and well-being advice/guidance after disengaging from our service for a few months. We would meet weekly in person to have a mix of well-being check-in sessions as well as Progression Routes support which included providing a space to come in and do her college work at the time. 

Get creative with support

During our support time, Anna enjoyed using art as a way of expressing her feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Knowing this was important to Anna, I was able to tailor some of her sessions around art and well-being where she would create artwork based on how she was feeling and/or a situation that was currently happening and she would share it back with me to talk throughout the session. 

Explore all the options

Struggling to complete her first year of university after coming out of lockdown she shared her thoughts about leaving her course. She was struggling with her depression and anxiety, which were affecting her motivation, and routine and were disrupting her communication and relationships with friends and family.

Hearing Anna’s experience, I felt it was important for her to explore her options to remain at university as she was feeling very overwhelmed and under pressure. It was also important for me to make sure she was aware of the different types of mental health and wellbeing services and support available in her local area, including art therapy, counselling, and well-being support. 

Create safe spaces

One of my key values as a Cheerleader for young people is to make sure they feel safe, heard, reassured and empowered!

I was able to help Anna by providing a safe space where she could:

  • Talk openly about her career and study options, and explore her feelings around these. This included exploring and mapping out her career journey creatively and visually and creating artwork which communicated how she was feeling while also making her feel she had the power to make her own choices.

  • Develop her photography skills, experience, and confidence through unpaid and paid work opportunities in local communities which she resonated with, as well as gaining new experience working with local youth charities.

  • Ask for help with her university options and support needs. This included inviting me to advocate on her behalf to her course tutor (with her being present) to see how her work was going, to explore her options and to see if an action plan could be created to break down her journey of completing her work.

Encouraging her to speak to her tutor in confidence about how she felt about her course gave the tutor more insight and understanding into her mental health challenges. With further support, Anna realised she was not as behind as she thought, and she decided to stay at university and go on to attend her second year.

My advice to another young person in the same situation would be:

  • ‘Keep going and growing on your journey’. 

  • ‘Focus on the journey and not the destination’.

  • ‘Don’t be scared to reach out or ask for support. Everyone needs a Cheerleader’


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