HeadsUp Conference: Giving Young People a Platform to Discuss Mental Health
HeadsUp Harrow is a consortium partnership of 5 local charities offering specialist mental health services to young people aged 11-25 across Harrow who face additional barriers to support. The service is provided by Mind in Harrow, Mosaic LGBT+ Young Persons’ Trust, Centre for ADHD and Autism Support, Paiwand and The Wïsh Centre.
On Tuesday 6th October 2020 young people were given a platform to express how schools and services can better deal with mental health in HeadsUp’s conference: ‘Rise Up: Youth perspectives for better mental health in 2020’. The conference combined creativity through powerful poetry readings and art created over lockdown to express young people’s feelings and practical coping strategies and safety planning proposed to schools.
Wïsh’s workshop, ‘Lessons Learned from 2020: Helping Young People Develop the Toolkit for Better Emotional Resilience’, received high praise for being informative with “new tools for young people to be able to use in relation to self-harm and emotional resilience”. The young volunteers at Wïsh impressively ran the workshop and proposed strategies to teachers to deal with students’ mental health. The workshop opened with Chloe E using the popular ‘check-in’ technique for members to express one good and bad thing about their week. As well as immediately engaging the workshop attendees, Chloe illustrated how teachers can open a discussion on how students are feeling at the start of their day during registration.
The young Wïsh volunteers also had the opportunity to voice their experiences during lock down and how COVID-19 has impacted their mental health. Teachers were encouraged to understand that young people’s support systems in school had gone and the boundaries of a healthy student and staff relationship through Ama’s personal and shocking experience. Natasha shared her friend’s experience to demonstrate that it is unhealthy for a student and staff relationship to become too personal as students can become co-dependent and deeply affected by lockdown. Natasha says: “I wanted teachers to have a way to help students that isn’t what my friend went through” and that “it’s important to set and maintain the boundaries”.
The Wïsh volunteers’ reflections on their workshop has shown the positive impact of the conference and volunteering on their self-esteem:
Sanaa evaluates her confidence: “before the workshop I was very nervous because I’m terrible at public speaking”, but afterwards: “the workshop made me that little bit more confident, which is always great”.
Jasmine comments on her role as a Wïsh volunteer: “I feel like even if I helped one person better understand how to help and support a young person with mental health difficulties, I have made a difference.”
Chloe expressed the value of the conference being led by young people: “It really empowered me and made me feel like I had a chance to be heard and make a difference”.
Events such as lockdown, COVID-19, GCSE and A-Level Results, and Police Brutality & Racism have significantly impacted young people’s mental health this year. The HeadsUp conference was a key example of the importance of young people taking control of how mental health is dealt with and having brilliant ideas once listened to.
Thank you to all the Wïsh volunteers for their brilliant ideas and contributions to the workshop.