How Norway’s “street psychologist” helps youngsters in need

Downtown Bergen, Western Norway. A woman is walking on the streets of this stunningly beautiful town. She is not a tourist nor is she going for shopping. She is Norway’s first “street psychologist”. Walking around, on the lookout for young people who may need help.

As they say “If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain”. And this is the perfect illustration of this. People especially young, are not eager or are afraid to ask for help or someone to talk to. So, help (impersonated by the “street psychologist”) goes out to find them herself.

But how does that work? And what are the results of this initiative? Has it worked so far?

What does the “street psychologist” do?

Vilja (that is her first name) walks around the city centre of Bergen and tries to approach people, especially of a young age and with different needs for support. She looks for people who experience a tough situation or serious problems (like family ones) in their lives at that moment. But she is also into youngsters who just want to talkBullying at school is unfortunately popular in Norway too.

Then, she talks to them in a friendly yet professionally appropriate manner and tries to help them see different perspectives on their problems.  Most of the times, this relaxed environment (on the street and not at school, hospital or other institution) makes things easier for the psychologist. Youngsters become more approachable and receptive to the small talk.

Does it work?

The “street psychologist” does some serious work. Kudos! As she says, many youngsters she approaches do have serious problems they need to deal with. Like depressionanxiety and trauma. Sometimes, they have issues with addictions, like drugs or alcohol.

Most of them are eager to talk about their problems. They see her as a friendly adult, outside of a formal institution, they can talk to anonymously, on the street and receive some guidance. Others are not interested and walk away.

Why did they do it?

Because they want to prevent more serious problems. If youngsters with issues do not get support, they quickly fall for worse things and into more serious problems. Then, it becomes an issue with a much higher cost. This awesome initiative is also based on fundamental Nordic valuesopenness and informality. The whole thing takes place on a street or at a park. No need for formalities or other bureaucracies that sometimes scare people in need away. 
Trying to find and help people with problems and not marginalising them is the right thing for society and individuals alike.