At the start of my work week, it was passed on to the team that a youth, Paul, had not been sleeping very well and was getting up lots during the night. As an overnight worker I had seen this pattern quite a bit with many youth. My experience with this, especially working with young men is that they would keep to themselves and not really want to talk about what was going on for them.
Paul was no exception and kept his wall up when I tried to get to the root of the cause of his sleep issues. He would be in the common space almost hourly reading or getting drinks. Although he didn’t want to talk to me about what was troubling him, I let him know that I was available if he changed his mind and checked in with him. On the second night of my shift rotation that week the pattern continued. I felt like he could do with some space so I didn’t approach him too much but acknowledged the fact he was up by giving him a smile.
A couple of minutes later he approached the staff office and asked to speak with me. I invited him into the office and asked him what was going on for him. He spoke at length about his legal issues, girlfriend problems and also how he had physical pain from an altercation a few days previous. I didn’t speak much but instead empathized with his situation and helped him to break things down into smaller pieces to help him understand more. After about 40 minutes Paul stated that he felt much better and that he really appreciated the opportunity to speak to someone whom he felt actually listened to him.
He told me that he found it hard to talk about things while staying in the Crisis Program as he did not want to seem weak in front of the other youth. He stated he thought he would be able to sleep better now. I commended Paul for his courage to speak to someone and assured him that staff would always be available. I asked him if there was anything else he needed. He stated that he thought an extra pillow would be helpful as his head was still sore from the altercation. When I gave him the extra pillow he seemed so grateful for the small gesture. It was this interaction that helped me to realize that somethings the smallest things can have a huge effect as Paul’s sleeping problems seemed to cease after this night.