News, events and schools' information for families across Bath and West Wiltshire

by Maddie, one of the young organisers

BaNES Youth Groups worked together to arrange a youth-led mental health event on Wednesday 11 October, the day after World Mental Health Day. The team organised several workshops and a panel of young people and professionals to discuss options and experiences around mental health.

The event ran from 5pm to 7:30pm at the Open House Centre Café within the Manvers Street Baptist Church, welcoming young people between the ages of 13 to 18 years old, or up to 25 years old with additional support needs. All of those taking part have been involved in teams from across CAMHS Participation Team, Off the Record, Bath Student Parliament, Mentoring Plus and Keynsham Now, Keynsham Youth Service, Senior In Care Council and Care Experienced Council, alongside other mental health professionals and youth group leaders.

27 young people across eight different youth organisations attended. Boys In Mind and Bath Mind helped to plan the event, but unfortunately were unable to attend.

The most important aspect of the event was the leadership roles given to the young people who represented their groups and led the event around what they wanted it to look like. Mocca from the CAMHS Participation Group opened up the event, handing over to young people from Mentoring Plus to lead an ice breaker – a hilarious challenge of reversing whatever physical move they showed the group. The ice breaker got a lot of laughs and was a great way to get comfortable with the group.

The event had a panel of three young people from Keynsham Now, Bath Student Parliament and CAMHS Participation Group, plus two professionals, Katie Gale from the BANES Mental Health Support Team and Tiff Ferris from Wiltshire and BANES School Nurses.

The original question posed to the panel was, ‘’What mental health support is out there for young people and how could that support be improved?’’ This prompted a great discussion with influences from both young people who had accessed these services and the professionals who provided some of them. Questions were then given from the crowd of attendees.

What worked great about this event is that the community supporting young people’s mental health had come together to create a conversation about making their services more accessible and making the continuity of what they provided better, which was shown within many of the discussions prompted on the panel. Having the representation of the young people and the in-depth knowledge of services from the professionals made a big difference in the discussion of topics and the perspectives given.

My favourite questions were based around the topics of what young people can do to help themselves with their mental health journey, and what can services do better to make sure that they are putting young people first.

Alongside the activities there was a free buffet during the break. This was a great time for the young people in attendance to make connections with each other, find old friends and discuss afterthoughts on the event so far.

The evening progressed with workshops being led by Boys in Mind and CAMHS Participation, splitting the attendees to whichever workshop took their fancy. Unfortunately, Boys in Mind could not attend the event, but another young person led a workshop and discussion around one of their many films How to Start a Conversation.

CAMHS equally got their group on their feet for a scenarios activity around how to access help depending on the situation. This led to a great deal of discussion and sharing about the best places people have received support. Both were equally a huge success for the event.

Finally, the event wrapped up with a final goodbye and asking for feedback on how the event has gone. Lots of the attendees reported feeling stressed or anxious before attending the event, but none said that they still felt this afterwards, with many reporting that they felt relaxed instead.

It was reported that in particular the attendees enjoyed learning something new about youth mental health support and that it was a youth led event.

‘’I’m really glad to have been a part of something so integral to what young people need,” said Maddie, one of the young organisers.

‘’Do something that makes you happy,” added a young panellist.

Overall, the event can be considered a turning point in mental health organisations and the way that young people work with them. It gave those young people at the forefront of organisational change a platform to come together and put their power to making mental health spaces include young people and their needs at the very baseline of their work.

The energy, passion and belief that the youth have shown with this event demonstrates that truly the only way for a better world is to give a voice to those inheriting it next.