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What are you looking at?

Many In2Out participants can't stand to be looked at. It's challenging when someone looks directly at you - they are giving you their full attention. Sometimes that's good, sometimes not so much. For our young people, their past traumatic experiences mean that, to their way of thinking, it's best if they go unnoticed.

Often our most insightful conversations with participants happen when we are side by side, working on something together, travelling in a car or even walking along. There's no direct eye contact involved. During mentoring sessions, we can provide activities or fidget toys, something for participants to do with their hands, so they don't have to make eye contact as they talk.

No one understands my story apart from you.

At In2Out we're very good at seeing without looking. What we see are some of the most vulnerable and marginalised young people in our society. A high percentage of them have suffered some form of childhood abuse or neglect. Many of them have chaotic lifestyles, often lived out in areas of social deprivation. It is common for them to have mental health issues, and some 60% of young people in custody have communication disorders.

Communication is something I struggle with, and I don't think people really understand me or what I'm trying to say.

Among our participants - as well as frequent and/or severe offending - we also see immense complexity of issues. Approximately 60% of them have been in local authority care. This is compared to 54% among all young offenders and just 1% in the general population. All are desperate to belong yet are constantly self-sabotaged by distrust, lack of hope and emotional immaturity.

As In2Out Mentors work with participants, their consistent, individualised support and encouragement helps establish relationships of trust. In a non-judgemental, safe environment, our young people begin to find the courage to let us see them.

They allow us to see their thoughts, feelings and sometimes powerful memories. They talk about their desire for change and their fear that this might not be possible, We catch sight of their goals and dreams, and their lack of knowledge in how to go about achieving them. They let us see how scared they are to leave custody and how overwhelming life 'on the out' looks to them.

What a privilege it is when they allow us to see them.

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