On 3rd July I attended a Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA England) conference at Birkbeck College, London. Here’s what I took from it.
The interactive conference consisted of talks from different professionals from the Mental Health industry speaking on the effects of mental health in schools, on teachers and students and how this heavily affects the overall environment. They also spoke about what support can be offered in educational facilities to help this and shared some very incredible (and some quite shocking) statistics on these subjects. The conference then introduced selected pupils from a few schools around the U.K and also a campaign started by a group of young people called Stamp Out Stigma (S.O.S). The students from the schools varied in age from about 7-16.
They all revealed their presentations they had been working on in school in small groups. They varied from talking about the effects of mental health during unemployment, homelessness and other hardships of life that a lot of people face. They included drawings, speeches, powerpoints and animations to showcase these findings and ideas. It was truly inspirational to hear people of such a young age with such a genuine care for others. I think the way today’s society is shaped, there really isn’t enough of that.
The kids were all really polite and confident and created a really cool atmosphere by basically taking over and running the session. They also created games to get everyone to introduce each other and talk about their favourite things to do etc, which created a really comfortable environment. Again, it was honestly amazing to see kids that young taking such initiative and really having a positive effect on those around them.
The session then drifted towards S.O.S and here is a short summary of what they are about (taken from their website): ‘Stamp Out Stigma is an initiative spearheaded by the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness (ABHW) to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and substance use disorders. This campaign challenges each of us to transform the dialogue on mental health and addiction from a whisper to a conversation.’ They were also really thought-provoking, they talked about their roller-coaster of a journey in which their head teacher had tragically taken their own life and how this affected the school and the pupils. These girls (who are about 15 I believe) had then used this horrible situation to create something genuinely amazing. They have now hosted conferences across the UK with thousands of people and even the Mayor has been involved!
The session then wrapped up with an activity where all the adults sat in a circle facing outwards in groups of three and a group of children would come and talk to us for a couple of minutes about whatever popped into our heads (mostly mental health related). It was actually really interesting to see some of the things that people came up with. Some of the things the kids were talking about were really touching, this one girl (couldn’t have been older than 8) stood up and was talking about how she just wished everyone could be happy, she explained she wanted everyone to have a voice and wanted more young people to get involved in doing good things related to mental health. I thought this was a really incredible mindset to have at such a young age.
In conclusion, the conference was really motivating and I learnt a lot from it. I hope more people can learn from these guys as they are most definitely going to make a massively positive impact. Thank you for reading!
If you’d like to learn more about S.O.S you can find out loads of stuff on their website here.
For more information about MHFA England, here is their website here.
Written by Kya McCartney (Senior Admin Assistant, Enterprise Exchange).