This paper explores questions of the agency and voice of young people in the negotiation of supportive relationships with adults, and the example of youth mentoring as one form of 'professional friendship'. It discusses the role of such relationships in the current context, and highlights gaps in knowledge about the value of the concept. The paper suggests that an understanding of young people's perspectives on their relationships with adults offers a framework to interrogate how supports are structured which could inform future interventions. Data from three studies undertaken by the authors suggests that young people are strategic in their help-seeking, turning to different people at different times for different purposes and frequently seeking out egalitarian styles of relationship. It also highlights that young people are wary of being labelled 'a problem', leading some to avoid use of services which they perceive as carrying stigma or threatening their anonymity. Finally, the paper argues that young people prefer to choose whom to speak to rather than to be allocated. It asks how these perspectives can be addressed by professionals and others working with young people, and suggests a need for frameworks which take more account of young people as active participants in their own development.
- mental health