An Interview With Mandie – Young People’s Substance Misuse Practitioner / PIPS Worker
What is your role at CGL?
I support young people who have been referred to the service due to problems around drugs and/or alcohol. I’ll usually see the young person on a one-to-one basis at school for about six weeks, but I also provide one-off sessions and targeted group work with about six kids, usually around cannabis and alcohol.
I do monthly drop-ins at schools, so I’ll sit in the dinner hall with our drug box and the kids come over and speak to me.
As part of my PIPS (People Impacted by Parental Substance Misuse) role, I work with young people under 18 – my youngest at the moment is five years old. I’ll give one-to-one sessions around feelings, emotions, understanding substance misuse and keeping themselves safe. It can take a long time for the young person to open up and tell us about what’s happening at home.
Why do young people start using drugs?
When you ask young people why they use drugs, there’s usually something going on at home or some mental health issues, for example self-medicating using cannabis to calm them down. For others, it’s just because their friends do it. But in my experience there’s often something at home they can’t cope with, or they’re just struggling to cope with everyday life.
How do you engage with young people?
I say ‘this is up to you, I’m here to support you. It’s confidential so we don’t have to tell anybody unless there’s a safeguarding issue. I’m not here to say do not smoke cannabis - you need to decide for yourself, once you understand what that drug or another drug does to you.’ Young people are quite nervous when they see me because they think I’m going to tell them off. They’re surprised when I say that!
How does the PIPS service work?
We help young people who are living with parents who have drug and/or alcohol problems. Often the young person is looking after their siblings too. They might start getting in trouble at school because they’re not finishing their homework. So I’ll speak to the teachers and explain that the young person has a lot going on at home, and ask for a bit of leeway.
In the one-to-one sessions we’ll talk about whatever the young person wants to talk about. Sometimes they just want to talk about a friend that’s annoyed them, but we’ll look at the underlying problems – everything is linked.
Why is it so important that PIPS services exist?
It’s really important for young people to know they’ve got someone there to speak to, someone who understands them, and that they feel supported. A lot of the young people we work with feel like they’re on their own and they’ve got no one to talk to. It’s about being honest with the young person and involving them in decision making.
The reason we do this job is for the young person to recognise that they do matter and they should be cared for.