I’ve always been involved in youth work, and have long held a passion to see young people loved through their toughest times. As a teenager, I struggled with depression and anxiety and resorted to self-harm. I’ve seen God do amazing work in me and He set me free from so much. Because of this, I’m a strong believer in God’s power to set others free, and have a particular heart for young people struggling with these issues.
A&E visits by young people suffering with their mental health have almost doubled in the last five years. It’s a major, growing concern for our nation. And even though support services exist to help these young people, often they struggle to engage with these services in a way that will enable them to actually move forward.
As a youth worker, I found myself supporting more and more young people struggling with self-harm and feeling suicidal in a hospital setting. It dawned on me that simply being there with a young person who is in in a scary, overwhelming personal situation like this was profound and powerful for them.
And that’s how Emerge Advocacy was born. We’re a voluntary, hospital-based organisation that exists to bring hope and love to vulnerable young people in the A&E setting. A big part of what we do is help them relate well to the health professionals who are there for them. And we’re seeing some incredible results.
Since Emerge started we’ve seen many young people go from being anxious, withdrawn and extremely vulnerable – to engaged, proactive and beginning to feel positive about their future. For many of them, the most powerful thing is that we’re volunteers. They’re blown away when they discover that we’re choosing to be there, just because we care about them and believe that they matter. They can hardly comprehend someone giving up their night to be in A&E like this, it makes a real impact.
Recently I received this text message from one of our young people:
“When I first met you guys I was way below 1% of hope and didn’t want to live at all.. everything was so dark but I promised to hold to that 1% and you guys would hold the 99%. Today I feel more like 70% me 30% you guys. I still have crap days but I am important and I will fight for that!!!”
This is why we do what we do. For us, seeing young people filled with hope is what it’s all about. Our organisation’s purpose is to be a ‘voice of hope’ to young people in crisis. We do that through subtly using our spiritual gifts, silently asking God for words of knowledge and encouragement that we can share in conversation when appropriate. Our main thing, though, is to just being there for them. Even in the small things like making tea, we are doing it in Jesus’s name and as carriers of His presence,
No situation is ever hopeless.
That’s true for the young people we see every week, and also the health service as a whole. We’re amazed by God’s goodness and provision as we continue to step out in faith. The NHS has been incredibly open to our work and we’re now dreaming of a future where churches around the country have Emerge Advocacy teams in their local hospitals, inspiring young people to begin a journey from despair to hope.