Beer explosion: Having got your... - Mental Health Sup...

Mental Health Support
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Beer explosion


Having got your attention I apologize for the title. Can I share some thoughts with users of this forum?

In recent years, I have helped a number of young people who were experiencing adjustment problems such as self-image; orientation and relationships; parents and authority. These problems were evidenced by stress and anxiety within families (and a sense of incapacity and developing depression for the young person).

We all know that for some young people, painful experiences and bad memories exert too great an influence on their perception of the world around them and their place within that world. ‘Reality’ is not an objective assessment, it is a personal and often overly negative perception of experiences. Simply put, bottled up memories and associated emotions generate anxiety.

A can of beer always builds pressure when taken from the ‘fridge into a warm kitchen. While human behaviour does not follow the laws of physics, some learned behaviours are equally predictable. If in given circumstances behaviour is predictable, then it can be interrupted and changed. As individuals, we learn to cope for the better from our own experience or, when in difficulty, we can be helped by counselling.

But what of unforeseen events. If our can of beer taken from the ‘fridge is dropped or subjected to a hard knock then when we crack open the top, … ‘Boom’ … beer all over the kitchen.

So it is with bottled up memories and the gradual build of pressure in young people. A new and bad experience within a family, or within a new peer group such as ‘freshers’ at uni, can precipitate an anxiety crisis. Emotional beer is all over the kitchen.

In Japan, there is a culturally unique solution to such problems of young people. Parents can hire a ‘pseudo grandparent’. A trusted empathetic senior citizen, for the young person a complete stranger, sits and listens. Surprise, surprise the process of verbalising, explaining, trying to justify, and possibly reviewing, the experience is itself therapeutic. The pseudo grandparent asks questions, encourages the narrative and at strategic moments summarises, what he or she hears. “Am I understanding you correctly …?” By explaining their situation young people gain a badly needed perspective and a greater depth of understanding.

Young people seem able to speak openly to an empathetic older stranger with a degree of frankness and perhaps more honesty than they can with members of their own family. (I heard, “you’re an old person, you don’t have a sex life so I should explain......”). As a helper, the ‘grandparent’ listens and tries not to judge and may occasionally give advice. The ultimate goal is for the young person to view their ‘reality’ in new ways, to recognize options for the future where previously they felt dead-ended and trapped.

Could this work here? This is no substitute for GPs, SSRIs, and therapy for those with severe problems but when young people, or their parents, become aware of developing anxiety or are faced with a ‘beer explosion’, such a service could be available quickly, at low or nil cost, be timely and possibly of great value. Is this an opportunity for us oldies to help the younger generation? Could you talk frankly to a stranger? Would talking help? What do people think? And what might be included in a code of conduct for such helping relationships?

3 Replies

Brilliant post and great idea. I think informally some youngsters do this. Eg I've seen posters on another forum saying how much they enjoy going and sitting with an elderly neighbour because of their wisdom and the way that older people just have more time and go at a steadier pace. Person centred counselling as i'm sure you'll know is founded on the very ideas you are explaining. Luckily many colleges and universities have on site counsellors who are usually very good.

I think that "talking more" and specifically talking therapy is the most useful intervention for many people. Unfortunately our mental health services have a very low ratio of counsellors to people. The waiting lists are ridiculous whereas it is easy to provide someone with a prescription for anxiety or depression medication. In many cases the prescription would be better scrapped and talking therapy put in place.

I don't know how we can engender these changes but I love your idea and appreciate your post. Gemma xxxx

Hi Gemma, Yes in theory a GP should not prescribe an SSRI to a young person 18+ but lets say under 24, without also arranging counselling but in practice a 10 minute appointment leads to a prescription and some information about private services because there is a long waiting list for the NHS (if available at all in the area). That is bad for those who actively seek help from a GP but there are many worried parents and anxious young people aware of 'problems' who fear the prospect of talking to a GP or other professional and as a consequence being labeled as a 'mental health' problem. So the pressure keeps on building ..... until there is an explosion. Somehow I feel we are missing something here, talking to a stranger about anxiety and negative self-images could prevent the pressure building into a problem.

I totally agree. Hopefully some young people do find an outlet on here and on the other forums but I agree that something more could be done on a more concrete and practical level. I always think young people that go to college or university are lucky as the services there are generally good. However there is a whole category of youngsters who do not fall into this category. The most mistreated and who we rarely hear from as their literacy levels may not be especially high or their lives unchaotic enough to join forums and stay are youngsters who through trauma within their family have been placed in care or with different foster carers throughout their lives; then at 18 they leave care and are often out on the streets and get into drugs etc. It is so sad as they are the most vulnerable of all. Something definately needs to be done about youngsters leaving "care" IMO.