Outreach Blog: Depression

January 2013

Maybe it’s the damp darkness hanging over London, or the record youth unemployment statistics dominating some newspapers as quarterly job and unemployment stats get scrutinized by press and MPs, but depression is a word I’ve heard too many times already today.

Working directly with some of South London’s NEETs (young people aged 16 – 25 who are Not in Education with Employment or Training) I feel like I’m pretty close to the action, and I see and hear first hand, what the ‘lost generation’ looks and sounds like. And they look a lot more confident, charismatic and driven that you’d expect.

At Photofusion we run a series of free to access short accredited course for young people who can prove they are receiving state benefits such as Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support, Employment Support Allowance, Housing Benefit or Council Tax benefit.

The reasons for claiming these benefits are endless, and from where I sit, none of them are work-shy, unmotivated, stoned, or lazy. Not when they are on our courses anyway. Now I’d like to credit our innovative programming, excellent resources and highly trained staff for keeping these young people on the straight and narrow, but it’s the young people themselves really. We work them hard, and they come up with the goods, and are a joy to have around – friendly, funny, engaged and full of ideas.

So why have I had three phone calls this morning from 3 previous participants desperately asking me for work, help finding another course or just anything to keep them busy? Each one has said they are feeling depressed and are eager to do something structured.

One young woman, who whilst on our course from June – August was early for every class, did work above and beyond what was required, but in the 2 months since finishing up with us, has applied for 40 jobs and got nowhere. Now when we have our catch-up meeting she’s tired, late, complains that she can’t sleep enough, feels unmotivated and uninspired, she’s getting ill all the time, and has lost her appetite. Anyone with a basic knowledge of depression will tell you that this young person may well be depressed.

So what next, she moves from Job Seekers Allowance to Employment Support Allowance, and maybe gets some medication. This isn’t going to move her up and out into the world. She’s never had a job, the last one she applied for was an apprenticeship where 400 other people applied, all desperate to earn £2.65 an hour for the next year.

Now who’s depressed…