With Christmas around the corner, many of us will start preparing to welcome this special season, buying decorations, Christmas trees and food to celebrate with our loved ones. It is easy to get caught up in the silly season, but it is important that we do not forget those less fortunate in the process.
Christmas is a very lonely time of the year for some young people. It can increase feelings of sadness and social isolation amongst disaffected youth who lack a sense of belonging. Most often, these young people will turn to alcohol and other drugs to minimise these negative feelings.
Substance abuse has a big impact on the user, their families and society. It is responsible for increasing homelessness, mental illness, family breakdowns and thoughts of suicide or self-harm amongst young people.
For homeless youth, Christmas is a particularly difficult time because it reminds them of what they don’t have. We try to make contact with these young people through our Street Walk program in the hopes of providing them with a safe place to stay. Christmas at a refuge is still a lonely experience, but they are with people in the same situation.
As a community we need to join together to combat these issues and ensure that young people are provided with adequate support. Christmas is a good starting point for everyone to get involved in the community and give back to those in need.
This Christmas, I encourage everyone to consider vulnerable young people by donating or volunteering with a charity that helps the less fortunate. Christmas is a very lonely and sad time for those struggling with homelessness, mental illness and social isolation. Together, we can help create a sense of belonging for these young people and help turn their lives around.
Father Chris Riley – CEO and Founder at Youth Off The Streets