Thro’ the een o’ caer leevers (through the eyes of care leavers) : the experience of young people leaving care and suffering from depression in Scotland
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The transition to adulthood is known to be a challenging period, particularly for care leavers who have been known to achieve poor outcomes. This study aimed to examine the Throughcare experience and outcomes achieved by young people who are simultaneously leaving care and experiencing depression. This study also adopted a multi-theoretical approach which accommodates both inner and external factors as potential elements which influence care leavers’ transitions. This theoretical position offered a useful approach for studying the multi-dimensional and complex reality of care leavers who suffer from depression. A qualitative methodological approach based on the constructivist paradigm was adopted for this study. Twenty seven young people who suffer from depression were interviewed and their data was complemented by information collected from seventeen key informants and a small group of young people leaving care who were not suffering from depression. The data was inductively analysed. The study found that some young people develop a material meaning of independence which leads them to disregard their mental health. This contributes to their inability to deal with problems and the difficult transitions they experience, where self-harm and suicide are often perceived as viable solutions for their problems. Poor mental health was also found to negatively impact on educational and work performance, school attendance, finding work, ability to maintain a job and perceptions of education and work. Other factors which impacted on education and work were attachment problems, inability to deal with simultaneous challenging problems, peer pressure, and the lack of appropriate formal and informal support. These young people also experienced poor housing outcomes, including the inability to sustain a tenancy, poor gate keeping, problems with neighbours and eviction leading to homelessness. Overall, the study concluded that care leavers with depression have specific vulnerabilities that contribute to difficult transitions to independent living. More attention needs to be paid to supporting these young people through strategic planning and policy, and investment in adequate resources to enable them to make successful transitions.