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Felixstowe young people discuss jobs, mental health and housing

By Jon WrightBBC News, Suffolk

Jon Wright/BBC A young man with long hair and a cap lines up a break on a pool tableJon Wright/BBC

Looking for a break, Luke Winston, 22, relaxes at Level Two in Felixstowe

Young people have been sharing their experiences of struggling with the pressures of finding housing, jobs and dealing with mental health. The latest data shows 28% of young adults aged 16 to 29 in Britain experience moderate to severe depression. In Felixstowe, a youth charity called Level Two supports young people navigating their lives.

Luke Winston is 22 and from Felixstowe.

He regularly attends Level Two to relax. The space allows him and his friends to talk about the pressures and challenges they face.

He has a job but, like so many his age, says he feels trapped by his circumstances.

“There is a lot of pressure to go out and get jobs that simply aren’t there, earn money that we don’t have in the economy, to go and buy things that we can’t afford,” he says.

“I’m fortunate, I still live at home so I have the full backing of my mum, but I don’t really want to be doing that for the rest of my life.”

Jon Wright/BBC Four young people sit around a table with microphonesJon Wright/BBC

Luke, Courtney, Katie and Chloe recorded a conversation for BBC Radio Suffolk about their experiences of in Felixstowe

Courtney Hessey is 24 and lives in supported housing.

“When I lost my job I had a bit mental health slip and was not able to get back into work for a while,” she says.

“I ended up not being able to pay my rent, which went into arrears and then ultimately I was kicked out from my place and left homeless.

“I spent a week sofa surfing, then they moved me all the way up to Lowestoft from Felixstowe where I knew nobody.”

She has returned to the port town and is in supported living, and is on the council housing list.

“I’m living from one universal pay check to the next and when I move out I’ll have to have insurance, bills, things like that, that I already can’t afford,” she says.

“Then going back into work is a struggle on my mental health and there’s not enough mental health services.”

‘My mental health was terrible’

Connor Oates is 21. He still lives with his family and doesn’t have a job at the moment.

“It’s my self confidence, the pressure of being around people you know, it kind of scares [me] so it’s like anxiety,” he says.

Archie Long, 20, works for his father’s tree surgery company and still lives with him.

“Three years ago my mental health was terrible,” he says. “There is so much pressure to get a job.

“I think you have to get over that initial anxiety of going to a place and meeting new people.

“It is easier said than done, but once I’d done that I was so much more comfortable with talking to people and going to different groups.

“You just slowly start building your confidence.”

Jon Wright/BBC Two young men sit by a coffee bar talking and smilingJon Wright/BBC

Connor and Archie chatting at Level Two in Felixstowe

Despite these challenges, both Connor and Archie see their future in Felixstowe.

Archie says: “I think there’s quite a lot of opportunity here, you just have to open your eyes a bit more and just push that little bit harder.”

Level Two’s mission statement is “to promote the welfare of young people (aged seven to 25) living in Felixstowe and surrounding villages, through supportive relationships and positive experiences, designed to enhance their personal and social development.”

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