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With one in six young people suffering from some form of anxiety, it’s no wonder they can find meeting new people and making new friends scary. We spoke to Denisa, who took part in NCS this summer, to found out how the programme helped her to overcome her fears.

Denisa, aged 17, took part in NCS (National Citizen Service) over the summer. During the holidays the buzz around NCS was growing rapidly and by Denisa’s kick off day on 12 August, she couldn’t wait to get on the coach. It wasn’t until she arrived that she found out that she wasn’t going to be in the same team as her friends. “I was really worried. I went with two of my best friends but when I realised we were in different teams, I thought ‘what am I going to do? How are we all going to make friends so quickly?’”

Denisa’s concern on her first day of NCS was both valid and very normal. After five years in secondary school alongside the same year group, meeting new people is likely to be very daunting.

NCS can help young people to overcome their fears of meeting new people and making new friends

Feeling nervous about meeting and mixing with new people is just one of many symptoms of social anxiety. It can also be triggered by crowded environments, performances and separation from home comforts – all of which are situations that NCS participants may find themselves in during the programme. According to Anxiety UK, 1 in 6 young people will suffer from some form of anxiety at some point.

In Denisa’s case, it wasn’t long before she realised that things weren’t quite as bad as they’d once seemed. “It was almost overwhelming how nice people were. From the minute we got on the coach we just clicked.”

With her biggest fear out of the way and her team by her side, Denisa had an incredible NCS experience. So much so that choosing a favourite phase was impossible. “They all had amazing highlights!” she says. “The activities in phase one really got me out of my comfort zone but I learnt so much in phase two and we really bonded as a team. And phase three was when our friendships really stuck together. How could I choose?!”

The fear of making new friends isn’t as frequently talked about as it is common. Like so many other young people that join us on NCS, Denisa had to challenge herself to achieve something great. But facing her fears while taking part in NCS meant she started Sixth Form feeling confident that she would be able to make new friends with her peers. And although a lot changes between Year 11 and 12, one thing that Denisa knows will be sticking around are the friendships that she made on NCS.

We’re sharing Denisa’s story to support World Mental Health Day on Wednesday 10 October. If you’re worried that you or someone you know is developing a mental health problem, help is available

If you think NCS could help you or a young person you know to overcome the fear of meeting new people and making new friends, you can find out more and sign up for our autumn programme here.