Beth Coulson – “It always seemed normal for me not to have friends”

Beth Coulson joined Youth Focus North East’s Fast Friends group to meet new people and make meaningful connections with other people of a similar age. Beth was initially terrified of new social settings, but has since grown in confidence to point where she spoke on BBC Radio One to raise awareness of youth loneliness. Read Beth’s story below.

It always seemed normal for me not to have friends. My mum was ill when I was growing up – she almost died a couple of times – and as my parents had divorced when I was three, I was the only one there to care for her. I barely went to school, and didn’t have any friends until I was 15. But they turned out to be untrustworthy, so I thought I would be happier without. At least that was, I wouldn’t get hurt.
As a child, I had no phone or laptop, I just had books. Now I’m on Facebook, which I thought would help me keep in touch with people. But when you see other people spending time as a family or going on trips, it’s a reminder that I can’t do that. Everyone else has the opportunity. For a few months now, I’ve been going to Fast Friends, a local youth group. I was nervous at first, but we have a laugh and do art. I can see now how closed off I used to be, but I’m a lot more confident since attending. This place makes me feel at home. I’ve made one good friend who comes with me. He’s a similar age and pretty much the male version of me – we’re like brother and sister together – and he lives close by. I’m now thinking of volunteering as a youth worker myself. I know what it’s like to need help and not get it.

Bethany Coulson, 22, from Gateshead