Column: Helping young people to be heard about mental health

October 10 marks World Mental Health Day. Sheffield-based charity Chilypep (The Children and Young People's Empowerment Project) is raising awareness of young people's mental health with the launch of its Mental Health First Aid Kit in Barnsley and across South Yorkshire.

Wednesday, 4th October 2017, 5:22 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 8:59 am

Young people want to see change in the way people talk about mental health. We want to make their voices heard.

We are launching Mental Health First Aid Kits as a unique way of raising awareness of mental health in schools and colleges. We’re striving to make young people’s mental health as visible and prioritied as physical health.

Poor mental health is rising among young people, yet there is still a damaging stigma surrounding it. Too often we find young people feel they cannot talk about their experience of ill mental health, which stops them getting help.

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A first aid kit can be found in almost every public building as a first response for physical injury. We want to see a mental health first aid kit there too.

Chilypep has been funded by Barnsley Clinical Commissioning Group to support young people’s involvement in Barnsley’s Local Area Transformation Plan under Future in Mind, a programme that aims to improve mental health services for young people.

As part of this we set up a mental health participation group, OASIS (Opening Up Awareness, and Supporting and Influencing Services), for young people wanting to use their experiences to improve mental health support in Barnsley.

We are incredibly proud to launch the Mental Health First Aid Kit, produced by OASIS in partnership with Chilypep. An OASIS group member said: “As young people we want to see parity of esteem in relation to mental health. We believe that by increasing understanding around mental health we will help reduce stigma and improve how others perceive those living with mental ill health. This is central to our campaign, #NotJustMe, that aims to raise awareness about youth mental health in Barnsley and reduce stigma.”

As part of our work under Future in Mind, Chilypep ran ‘creative consultations’ with young people aged 11-25 asking their views and experiences relating to mental health and emotional wellbeing. From these, ‘pressure’ came out as the number one issue causing a negative impact on their mental health.

The vast majority of young people we talked to spoke about pressure to achieve, social pressures, and educational pressures such as exams. Young people also felt wider societal pressures on them to conform to media stereotypes, which have a negative impact on their mental health.

We will distribute the Mental Health First Aid Kits to 50 schools and colleges across South Yorkshire, many of which have already shown keen interest. Given time we hope we will be able to send kits out nationwide to create lasting and meaningful change that is by young people, for young people.