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Health and wellbeing

Starting a youth mental health revolution

Jazz, 17, works with young people in Ewanrigg Big Local, as part of We Will, a youth mental health campaign group.

Our We Will campaign started in December 2017. It followed Ann-Marie, from Ewanrigg Big Local, a youth mental health first aider trainer, coming to our school and having a conversation with us about the support she could offer. A lack of mental health support for young people in our area rang true with many of us.

There’s a huge waiting list for mental health support in Maryport. We know this isn’t unique to Cumbria. It’s an epidemic. Suicide is the leading cause of death in young people and currently one third of young people referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are declined help.

Together the We Will group asked ourselves the question ‘If there is one thing we can do to improve mental health, what would it be?’

Our conclusion was we simply need to listen better.

“We all have friends who’ve had mental health challenges or experienced problems ourselves, so we’re doing something about it.”

How is We Will tackling mental health?

There’s nine of us in We Will, three of us are partnership members from Ewanrigg Big Local. We range in age from years nine to twelve – so from 14 -17 years old. Kate, also from Ewanrigg Big Local, and Ann-Marie are our adult support, but they give us a lot of trust to lead on ideas for our campaign.

We’ve kick-started some projects including a new quiet space at our school. Two of us are responsible for looking after it every lunch time. It’s for anyone who wants somewhere calm to go.

We’ve also started to attend P.E classes to have conversations with different students. We highlight the link between physical health, diet and mental health.

One of our biggest challenges is to highlight that many schools don’t have access to a counsellor. That’s where wider campaigning will come in.

It’s time for a flash mob

In June, we did our first flash mob performance in front of lots of people at Big Local Connects. We wanted to present a young person’s perspective and give a clear, visual message that young people can really struggle.

The reaction to our performance was really positive. People were asking us questions, and I noticed some were quite emotional. I think everyone, no matter what your age or where you’re from, can relate.

Starting a revolution

Really, we want to make a change on a national level.

We believe by training as many people as possible in youth mental health, this will make a big difference.

We believe listening to understand is one of the most important things we can do to support young people.

We’ve used our Big Local funding to train a member of staff to be a youth mental health first aid trainer. Your Big Local area could do this too.

“We think Big Local could start a youth mental health revolution. Together, We Will.”

Image credit – Haroon Lukka, Heston West Big Local