Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Work to be done to give youth hope in Northern Ireland

There is work to be done to give youth hope in Northern Ireland
There is work to be done to give youth hope in Northern Ireland

It is most disturbing to find that the high rate of unemployment among young people in Northern Ireland has had a more devastating effect here than in any other part of the United Kingdom.

This leads to depression and other problem conditions, including self-harming, suicidal thoughts, and alcohol and drug abuse.

Research carried out for The Prince's Trust reveals that more than a third of our jobless young people have experienced mental health issues, compared to a UK average of almost one in five.

The research also reveals the devastating effects of long-term unemployment among young people, and that those in the 16-25 age group here are twice as likely to have been described anti-depressants as their peers in other places. Sadly also, the long-term youth unemployment rate here has increased by nearly 200% since 2008.

One of the saddest aspects of these revelations is that so many young people feel that they have nothing to live for, with more than one in five believing that they are "a waste of space".

This is truly shocking for so many young people whose lives still stretch out before them; and one of the greatest challenges for society, and for all of us, is to help them feel that life is worthwhile, and that persistence, training and self-belief will in the end bring dividends.

The Prince's Trust, with the help of others, has been carrying out much good work in this field, as some of our reports in today's paper demonstrate.

One example is that of Caroline McCusker who did well at school but felt helpless and isolated because of problems at home. But she joined The Prince's Trust Team Programme and eventually graduated from the University of Ulster with first-class honours in Fine and Applied Arts. After further help from the trust's Enterprise Programme she is happily self-employed and fulfilled in her work.

Caroline's story is a dramatic example of how one young life can be turned around, in her case through help from the trust.

However, this is a challenge which faces the Government in trying to create more jobs and a more balanced economy, and also our politicians in creating the shared society which Dr Haass urged us to build.

The more we cling to the past, the more we will short-change the future of our young.

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