At Element we know we are always learning from the people we work with, be that care leavers, local authority staff, artist facilitators or other amazing organisations. For this reason we aim to keep an open mind when developing our projects, and continually listen and respond to the feedback of our young people and clients.
Element was originally developed based on a combination of insights from working with young people, care leavers and in the field of the arts. Alex’s work in a pupil referral unit (PRU) helped inform her work on Storeys. While working there she noticed that although most of the students were there because they had been excluded from school due to violent outbursts, there was no comprehensive programme for anger management or discussion around difficult emotions.
When Alex spoke to the young people about their anger, it was incredibly internalised: the students thought only they got angry, and were incredibly surprised to learn anger is an issue everyone has to deal with. She developed a programme to change how the students thought about anger. The aim was to depersonalise this emotion: to show them that we all get angry; it’s the way you deal with this anger that’s important. This lead to one of her most memorable moments, when in a mindfulness workshop, one student turned to another and demanded: ‘tune into your f***ing breathing!’’
As Element has grown, we aim to keep learning at the core of what we do. Every project we gather comments from the young people who have participated. The feedback we get ranges from the effusive: ‘It opened my eyes to a completely new way of thinking and feeling in a positive way’, to the practical: ‘Why don’t you provide more pizza?’, to the constructive: ‘It would be useful to do some stuff on structure.’ In fact, the word ‘structure’ has come up a lot, along with the idea of motivation and purpose.
Young People’s Emotional Health and Purpose
Many of the young people we work with have identified feeling purposeful and having structure in their days (be that through college, work or going to the gym) as vital to their emotional wellbeing. However, staying motivated can prove a challenge. In view of this, our projects focus on the questions of purpose and motivation, and then build our discoveries about what works for each individual into actionable plans and goals that can be incorporated into daily routines.
Purpose is not just about a career: it’s about filling your time with activities that are meaningful to you, setting realistic personal goals and knowing how to keep yourself motivated even when things don’t go your way. This can be something that young people, including care leavers (and including us) can struggle with. Through our projects we introduce tools for increasing motivation and purpose and therefore improving emotional health and wellbeing.
If you would like to find out more about our projects, please get in touch!