Rise of Legal Highs #legalhighs

shutterstock_218274139There has been a disturbing global increase in New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) – often called ‘legal highs’ – and nowhere, currently, are they more prevalent than in the UK.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the UK has the biggest market for legal highs in the whole of the EU. The World Drug Report states that 670,000 Britons aged 15-24 have tried them at least once.

Legal highs often have similar effects to cannabis, heroin and amphetamines, and are sold as uppers, downers or hallucinogenics on the UK high street and over the internet. Since legal highs cannot be sold for human consumption, they are often sold as plant food, incense, or salts. The trouble is that buyers cannot be certain what the product will contain, and adverse effects cannot be predicted.  These substances are not controlled yet because there is not enough information on them to base a decision. However, ‘legal highs’ are increasingly being researched to identify the dangers and determine if they should be made illegal.

Legal highs have been directly associated with anti-social behaviour, causing some of the same problems as illegal drug use. Some users of legal highs steal to get the money for their fix, and drug-induced behaviour often leads to criminal activity and endangerment.

In Morriston, Swansea, “new psychoactive substances have become the biggest cause of anti-social behaviour”, Councillor Andrea Lewis said. “We had young people behaving erratically, literally running out into the street into oncoming traffic.”

Police forces in Wales have seen incidents involving legal highs increase from 18 in 2012 to twenty times that many: 371 in 2014.

A BBC News investigation discovered that legal highs can be more addictive than some illegal drugs – and are getting stronger. Benzofuran and Mephedrone have even been banned. However, as soon as certain substances are made illegal, new ones are produced and on sale.

Some people are seriously affected by legal highs, and doctors are concerned.

“We are seeing increasing numbers of people going into mental health units with acute psychotic episodes after having taken some of these legal substances,” said Julia Lewis, Clinical Director for adult and specialist mental health services. “We are hearing of quite young people having heart attacks; I treated one 17-year-old boy who’d had a small heart attack on one of these substances.”

To receive help and signposting to organisations offering advice and support with drug issues, contact the BBC Action Line on 08000 680 118

Or contact FRANK, the drugs information agency directly, 24/7/365, on 0300 123 6600

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.



shutterstock_118972225There is a great deal of intolerance in the world today. Not just on a global scale, in war zones and the Islamic State. Not only in national and local pockets of anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic activities reported in the media, either. There is evidence of everyday sexism, ageism, racism, intolerance and other disrespect of differences, in all walks of life.

How can we encourage young people to tolerate and respect diversity or difference?

Our identities have various characteristics, including: gender, ethnicity, race, language, sexual orientation, family composition, relationship status, religion or belief system and socioeconomic status. These characteristics can be used to define us; to differentiate or categorise us – and to create an impression of our identities based on what is ‘known’. However, these impressions are also informed by what we don’t know – our assumptions, bias or prejudice.

A 2014 survey in the United States from the Pew Research Center measured ‘familiarity’ and ‘warmness’ toward certain religious/non-religious groups. The “warmest” ratings went to Jews, Catholics and evangelical Christians. But Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Buddhists and atheists received “colder, more negative” ratings.  This survey also reports that a person knowing someone personally from a certain group gives them more positive views of that group; whilst not knowing anyone from that group leads to more negative impressions and opinions. Again, if not actual fear of the unknown, this certainly suggests distrust or wariness of unknown groups.

Playground bullying, prejudice and gang rivalry, like terrorism and war, are signs of intolerance. People are taught to fear things that are different, or unknown. This results in responses ranging from ignorance and rudeness to ridicule and violence. Yet, differences add to the richness and diversity of our world. What if everyone learned that ‘difference’ is natural? With respect, understanding and acceptance, it could be embraced.

If racism, sexism and general disrespect are not addressed, meaningful society cannot exist. When young people make comments that are ‘off’, we should offer constructive criticism and different ways of thinking, rather than just complaining or admonishing them. Our reaction will help build sensitivity and respect and can prevent the young person from being defensive. Instead of using a judgmental word or statement, they might simply notice, “That’s different.”

If every child grew up accepting that every single person has equal rights – how different would the world be?

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.

Saving Young People

shutterstock_132478784For many young workers, after rent, living expenses, student loan or credit-card payments and incidentals, there’s not much left over, making it difficult to even imagine saving.

For those without jobs, it’s easy to get into debt just paying for essentials like food. Pleasure has to be taken where you can get it. Saving seems impossible.

A report into debt by Demos found that 22% of 18-to 24-year-olds say their debt has ‘increased a lot’, compared with 4% of those aged over 65.

A relatively small number of young people (30% of 18-24 year olds and 22% of those 25-34) put their debts down to investing in their future (regarded by Demos as a positive cause of debt). But the majority feature negative explanations for debt, including unexpected expenses (28% and 35% for the two age groups) and help to pay for the basics – 27% and 28% respectively.

Managing money can be difficult for young people. They don’t have much, generally, and their motivation to save up for the future is weak. When you’re young, ‘the future’ is either tomorrow or a long way off – and retirement is so far away, it’s unthinkable.

Living in the moment – having fun now and worrying later – is the strategy of many young people, which accounts for rising credit-card debt. So how is a 20-something to save? Here are some strategies to support young people with budgeting – or even to use for yourself:

Set goals. Start tracking your spending. You might be surprised to see where your money is actually going.

Use the 50-20-30 rule: Look to spend 50% of your budget on fixed costs like rent, utilities and car payments; 20% toward financial goals like building an emergency fund, paying off credit-card debt or saving; and 30% toward flexible spending like groceries, entertainment or shopping.

Prioritize setting aside one month’s net income in a separate savings account for emergencies. Ultimately, work toward saving six months’ income.

Next, work on paying down so-called “bad debt,” like high-interest credit-card debt.

Automate. Set up a direct debit or a recurring automated transfer so that a fixed amount goes directly into your savings account without ever touching your current account.

Self-audit. Think about all the various subscriptions you have to magazines and entertainment sites like Netflix, Hulu and Spotify—or even satellite or cable. Do you really need all of them? Cancel at least two subscriptions.

Just say no. Going out, meeting friends, and being sociable often costs money – for eating, drinking, travel. If you do it often, it all adds up. Plan for the month, budgeting for known, important events like a friend’s birthday dinner. If other spontaneous invitations come up, you can choose whether or not you say yes.

Cash only. If you have a tendency to overspend on credit cards, go all-cash. Abandon your credit card and carry sufficient cash for what you need that day. If you run out of cash, you can’t spend any more.

With some financial understanding and planning, young people can have fun today, and feel secure for the future.

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.

What’s up Doc? Young people spurn GPs

shutterstock_118165540Young Britons are turning their backs on GP surgeries. Increasing numbers of 18-to 34-year-olds go straight to overstretched A&E departments because they cannot get suitable appointments with their family doctor. It seems that health services are failing to match modern lifestyles.

A report by Citizens Advice Bureau finds that people aged 18 to 34 are far less likely than older people to be able to see a GP when they need to. Instead, they are more than twice as likely to attend A&E departments or walk-in centres as those aged 55 and over.

Despite successive governments’ promises to make GP services more accessible, the NHS still fails to cater for a working population wanting family doctors to be available at times to suit busy working lives. Young adults were more than twice as likely to be unable to secure a GP appointment at a convenient time than older people. 14% of 18-34-year-olds could not see a GP the last time they tried to make an appointment, compared with 6% aged 55 or over. One in eight (13%) of younger adults did not get any professional help for a health problem after failing to see their GP.

Also, levels of satisfaction and trust in the GP service were dramatically lower amongst young people than amongst pensioners. 30% of young adult respondents said their experience of GPs was “very good”, compared with 64% of those over 75.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said failure to treat younger people outside hospital would add to the financial pressures on the NHS. “GP services need to keep up with 21st-century lifestyles. With many younger adults out at work, it can be difficult for them to get an appointment with a GP, particularly at a convenient time. As a result, some people are struggling to access the medical advice they need.

“It is in the NHS’s interest to get primary healthcare for younger adults right and ensure services fit around busy working lives. A failure to meet their needs piles more pressure on budgets,” Guy said.

Citizens Advice found that young people often prefer to use walk-in centres instead of GPs, but nearly a quarter of these seven-day-a-week, 24-hour centres had closed since 2010.

Sitting for hours in the early morning with the phone on redial doesn’t suit young people with busy lives. It’s easier to call into hospital out of office hours if they feel ill. Sadly, too many young people give up and do not seek professional help at all. When their health deteriorates, it adds further pressure to NHS budgets.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We’re giving the NHS £150m to develop new ways of improving GP access for millions of people, including 8am to 8pm appointments seven days a week, as well as email and Skype consultations. Next month commuters will also be able to register at a surgery near work.”

The data from this research will inflame the fraught debate over the future of the NHS: a key issue in this year’s general election campaign.

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.

Arthur Coaching: The Rise of Youth Debt

shutterstock_98788745Young people are burdened with increasing levels of debt, according to a poll published in 2014 and commissioned by think tank, Demos. People in their 20s-30s are either “putting their lives on hold or racking up substantial debt”.

The Populus poll found that more than half (55%) of those aged 18 to 24, and 48% of those aged 25 to 34 say their debts have increased over the past five years.

The majority of young people have debts of more than £2,000 – 45% of those aged 18-24 and 56% of those aged 25-34. However, almost one-fifth (19%) of 18-24-year-olds and 22% of those aged 25-34 owe more than £10,000.

Research in 2014 by Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) found that more than six out of 10 young people – 62% – are turning to payday loans – high-cost loans aimed at people struggling.

High-interest loans often spiral out of control, leaving people in debt with nowhere else to turn but into a vicious circle of more borrowing. 10% of CAB clients in serious debt are aged between 17 and 24, of whom just 8 are in debt because of mainstream credit, such as an overdraft, bank loan or credit card. People aged 17-24 make up more than 15% of CAB cases where their debt has been caused by loans charging high rates of interest.

Because people under 18 can’t be held to loan contracts, and the debt cannot be legally enforced, no loan company offers loans to people so young. However, some young people have lied about their age and taken out payday loans online.

David Cameron has said that we are “all in it together” to tackle the deficit. That’s all very well. However, university tuition fees have been trebled while benefits for pensioners have remained.

Additional pressure is placed on people just starting out in life. The costs of studying for a degree, buying a house and starting a family are higher than ever. People in their 20s and 30s face a choice between putting their lives on hold, or racking up debts.

If you do need to borrow money, opt for a less expensive standard personal loan or credit card: usually a much cheaper alternative than a payday loan.

However, only take out a credit card, personal loan or other borrowing if you are sure you can pay back what you owe. Before resorting to that, be frugal and see where you can reduce your outgoings and make savings.

If you’ve already taken out a loan, or you are in debt and struggling to pay, do seek professional help. You can find your local Citizens Advice bureau in England and Wales on citizensadvice.org.uk. Get advice online at adviceguide.org.uk. Consumer advice is available from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers. Alternatively, call National Debtline on 0808 808 4000/ 0808 808 4000.

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.

Arthur Coaching: Confident or ‘cocky’ teenagers?

shutterstock_193973885Are teenagers demons or are they being demonised? Usually, the media and general public have a bad impression of young people today.

As I understand it when I read the press, teenagers mainly fall into two (somewhat archetypal) categories:

  • The know-it-all lairy ones who answer back, full of cocky arrogance, ebullience, and loudness. The ones who hang about in gangs around the shops, drinking their way through the alcohol spectrum from beginners’ alco-pops to hardcore vodka. The extreme ones mugging grannies, dealing drugs and causing trouble.
  • The quiet ones – or the monosyllabic grunting ones; the introverted or shy awkward ones who lack social skills; the ‘Emos’ and those with teenage angst. The ones sitting alone in their rooms, playing computer games or exploring suicide sites.

It is easy to see the quiet ones as lacking in confidence. However, what if all the negative characteristics associated with teenagers actually mask a lack of self-confidence? Even hanging about in gangs resolves a fear of being alone. What if even their cocky ‘over-confidence’ was, in fact, over-compensation for a lack of real self-confidence?

The two main attributes of self-confidence are self-esteem and self-efficacy.

Self-esteem comes from being comfortable in one’s skin: a sense of our competence, coping abilities and our happiness. This comes from other people’s approval of us, in part, especially when we are very young. More importantly, it comes from our approval of ourselves.

Self-efficacy comes from mastering skills and achieving goals that matter to us. It’s our confidence in learning and working hard to succeed. This is what helps us to accept challenges and to persist when we are faced with setbacks.

Anyone at some point in his or her life must build confidence. It is hard enough for adults to do this, let alone young people, as they lack life experience and are being flooded with raging hormones affecting their emotions and judgement. Often, young people need support to develop their self-confidence.

So how do we help young people to build a balanced sense of self-confidence, based firmly in reality? Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. The good news is that it can be more easily achieved through coaching, over a period of time.

Coaching programmes with disadvantaged young people have proved to significantly increase levels of self-esteem, aspirations and school attendance by up to 80% (CSUK – ASPIRE NLP & Life Coaching Programme, 2008). Coaching has caused a 50% drop in alcohol and drug misuse (Foyer Health Programme Test Bed, 2010), and helped young people to gain vocational qualifications, apply for / attend job interviews, resume probation contact, take up volunteering, resolve debts and apply for social housing (USC YMCA Report, 2011).

These results are promising, but this is just the start. What more can be done to build young people’s confidence through coaching?

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people

Charlie or Not Charlie? #IamCharlie

shutterstock_141073798After the terrible attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, many people on social media are saying in support: ‘Je suis Charlie’.

Charlie Hebdo cartoonist, Renald ‘Luz’ Luzier escaped the massacre in which 12 were killed, because he was late for work. He wept as he told reporters, “The terrorists, they were kids: they drew just like we did, just like all children do. At one point, they lost their sense of humour. At one point, they lost the soul of their child which allowed them to look at the world with a certain distance.”

Despite radical interpretations, the Qu’ran preaches religious tolerance (109:1-6): “Say: O unbelievers! I do not serve that which you serve, Nor do you serve Him Whom I serve: Nor am I going to serve that which you serve, Nor are you going to serve Him Whom I serve: You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion.”

Charlie Hebdo lives on, despite the terrorists’ attempts, still standing for freedom of expression and advocating tolerance. The cover of the “survivor’s edition” shows the prophet Mohammed, weeping, holding a sign saying: “Je suis Charlie” and “All is forgiven.” Luzier said, of his new cartoon, “I’m sorry we’ve drawn him yet again, but the Mohammad we’ve drawn is just a little guy who’s crying. He is much nicer than the one followed by the gunmen.”

I support the right to free speech. I also believe in practising that right responsibly and respectfully. There is great value in respecting other people’s opinions, even if they challenge us; even if we disagree. The right to disagree, however, does not mean the right to kill. While free speech means that I can say what I want, I do think about the impact of my words – and how others will feel, whether or not they share my belief system.

When I speak, I don’t want to be part of the problem; I want to be part of the solution. I want to help people. I want Islam, Christianity, Judaism and the whole of society to be open, inclusive, democratic and liberated. Free speech is fundamentally essential to that. So is respect. Both can exist together.

Freedom of speech is deeply and historically ingrained in French values. Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity are personal, social and constitutional rights in a democratic world. They are words for us all to live by, in a tolerant world.

Some Muslims – including Imams – were offended by Charlie Hebo’s cartoons. After the tragedy, the same Imams were shocked by the violence, reminding people on TV that you should only fight words with words, and encouraging Muslims to attend the rally in memory of Charlie Hebdo.

If I am Charlie, and you are not – it’s all good.

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.

Arthur: Coaching Young People – or not


Life Coaching and Leadership Coaching are often undertaken by adults dissatisfied with some aspects of their life; people who recognise that they have blocks that are holding them back; professionals simply keen to succeed, lead better and achieve more; or people wanting to create meaning, purpose and fulfilment.

“Why coach young people at all?” you may ask.

In my years of experience and work as a doctor and an executive coach to adults, I have come to see the benefits and importance of well preparing for life, rather than repairing a life.

I think an early intervention is more effective: it prevents unnecessary suffering and disappointment and it offers longer-term gains of general contentment. So, why not coaching young people? After all, they do have their whole lives ahead of them.

The earlier a person learns something, the more time they have to practise, until their learning becomes, unconsciously, a way of life. And when we can catch bad habits of thinking and feeling early and replace them with more useful ones, there is a happier and more successful life to be led.

Professional Youth Coaching is developing (albeit rather slowly) as a valuable support for young people. It helps them to discover their strengths, their passions, their values and to focus on exploring and achieving their goals. It helps them build confidence, the sense of self-worth and mental resilience. It empowers them to become the best they can be –just because potential makes it possible. Good coaching helps young people to understand themselves and others better. Most importantly, it helps them transform and grow.

What about tackling unemployment, offending rates and stress? I am going to stop preaching here. There are so many benefits to life and leadership coaching that it’s a wonder self-development isn’t offered as a standard school or college subject. The Ancient Greeks (who knew one thing or two about the value of knowing oneself) must wonder what the modern Western world has lost or is afraid of –could there be more to young people’s lives than #football and @TheXFactor ?

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.