3. Hiding away

Shame, pity and guilt in public policy

Even in economically developed countries some young people have to deal with a weight of challenge that would sink the most capable. These are young people who have no bed to sleep in, who abuse drugs and alcohol, who get into trouble with the law, who suffer mental ill-health, and, and, and….

Even in economically developed countries some young people have to deal with a weight of challenge that would sink the most capable.

They may not be responsible for their disadvantage but they feel a social response. Sometimes it is real, sometimes not. But they feel it. They feel shame. And so they withdraw. They hide away from people and organisations that might help. They find a place that they describe as ‘rock bottom’, a place where they cannot be hurt anymore.

Many people reach forward to help. Too many doing so express pity, they place a metaphorical arm around the shoulder that exudes the sentiment that everything will be alright. Young people are highly attuned to pity, and recoil from it. It accelerates their disconnection.

But that which chases young people away from the help they need also has the potential to raise money for those who want to help, a theme Bruna Seu will pick up on this Thursday.

Rebeca Sandu is a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge.

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