As the Director at Youth Legal Service, I have found recent WA media articles about youth crime both misleading and disconcerting.
It is easy to read articles of this kind without too much through of the complexities involved. We might sigh momentarily and shake our heads as we sip our morning coffee and form the opinion that young people involved in crime ‘deserved to be locked up’.
But what if, in fact, we are dealing with kids who actually need our compassion and support. Teenagers between the ages of 14 – 17 who have already decided life is not worth it. Young people who are in such pain that self-harming is an attempt to express what they can’t verbalise. What if, instead of viewing these kids as bad, we see these young people as valuable members of our community who need assistance to navigate a vulnerable period of their lives.
While more funding is required to provide safe, responsive mental health services for young people, not everything is necessarily mental-health related. Young people need people they can trust and mentors who believe in them. They need safe adults who can provide opportunities for them to see their strengths, their uniqueness and their importance to the world.
It is easy to say, “the government should….” and certainly, as with all systems, there is room for improvement between the various relevant departments.
But, I ask: Are you that safe parent, grand-parent, family member or friend whom they can rely on? Would you be prepared to put your hand up for a mentoring program, such as that offered by our organisation? Rather than shake your head when reading these all too frequent articles, how about being prepared to make the change you’d like to see in the world?
Youth Legal Services