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Title: Rewriting Stories of Trauma: Mentoring for and by At-Risk Young People
Contributor(s): Douglas, Lesley  (author)orcid ; Usher, Kim  (supervisor)orcid ; Jackson, Debra Elizabeth  (supervisor); Woods, Cindy  (supervisor)orcid 
Conferred Date: 2019-07-08
Copyright Date: 2019-04
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Related DOI: 10.1111/inm.12579
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Aim: This study aimed to investigate what motivates previously recognised at-risk young people to mentor their at-risk peers voluntarily.

Background: Young people who have suffered adverse childhood experiences are often deemed to be ‘at-risk’ as they may not achieve their expected psychosocial, educational, and/or developmental goals. Research has shown that at-risk young people are more likely to experience mental health conditions, become involved in the criminal justice system, suffer from educational limitations and become involved in detrimental, destructive behaviours. These risk factors increase the likelihood of longer-term deleterious outcomes; including substance use disorders, psychosocial and economic limitations, development of recognised long-term mental health disorders, criminal activity and suicide.

Previous research has shown that at-risk young people are difficult to engage in conventional mental health care modalities. Help may be sought through peers in the first instance, because many young people hold negative attitudes towards adult-driven services. One avenue of adjunct intervention is mentoring, which has traditionally been the pairing of an adult with a young person. This type of mentoring is an effective strategy for enhancing positive outcomes for at-risk young people. An alternative type of mentoring is peer-to-peer mentoring, which is growing in recognition.

Despite the wealth of information regarding the positive outcomes of mentoring relationships, there is no published research about mentoring provided by previously recognised at-risk young people to their at-risk peers, and the outcomes for the mentors. The major aim of this study was to identify the key motivations of young people to voluntarily mentor their peers and provide some insight into the outcomes for the mentors.

Methods: Twelve previously recognised at-risk young people recruited through one formal peer-to-peer mentoring program operating in rural Australia participated in in-depth interviews. A qualitative, narrative methodology was used to analyse, explore and identify emergent themes from the interview transcripts.

Findings: Three major themes, consisting of further sub-themes were revealed through the participants’ stories. The themes indicate that previously recognised at-risk young people are altruistically motivated to mentor their at-risk peers. The first theme; rewriting their personal stories of trauma, describes the young mentors’ ability to develop shared narratives of optimism and to use their experienced trauma(s) in a positive way to help their peers. The second theme; making a difference, depicts the young mentors’ ability to become an inspiration for others to emulate the healing journey. The final theme; enabling others to move forward, reveals the altruistic desire of the mentors to seek opportunities to give to others what had been given to them through the formal peer-to-peer mentoring program. Through the sharing of resilience and healing stories with their at-risk peers, these young people are helping others move forward with their lives.

Conclusion: This is the first study to explore the motivations of previously recognised at-risk young people who mentor their at-risk peers. The findings demonstrate that young people are altruistically motivated to help their like-peers move forward with their lives, assist with processing their adverse childhood experiences and lead change through peer-to-peer mentoring. Their motivation stems from experiencing the same mentorship themselves from peer mentors in the past, a desire to give back, and continue the cycle of helping and healing. For young people who are disillusioned with or not engaging with adult-driven mental health services, this represents a positive alternative to traditional intervention. These findings have important implications for community-based clinicians working with at-risk young people.

Publication Type: Thesis Doctoral
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 420504 Mental health nursing
420305 Health and community services
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: 200305 Mental health services
200307 Nursing
200508 Rural and remote area health
HERDC Category Description: T2 Thesis - Doctorate by Research
Description: Please contact if you require access to this thesis for the purpose of research or study.
Appears in Collections:School of Health
Thesis Doctoral

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