Thoughts on the APPG Youth Affairs discussion on Mental Health

By Mev Ahmad (UK Youth Voice Peer Facilitator)

IMG_4532Despite years of campaigning, less than 10% of the NHS budget is spent on mental health services and its practically non-existent in many  regions, as Norman Lamb MP explained. Mental health is still not given the same importance as
physical health in this day and age.

Its frankly heartbreaking. So what can we do? 

Hosted by Wes Streeting MP, last Tuesday’s APPG on mental health focused on solutions and not just simply the problem of mental health services. 

Panelists included Luciana Berger MP, Norman Lamb MP, Francesa Reed (youth select committee chair), Jonny Benjamin (mental health vlogger and campaigner) and Sarah Brennan (CEO of Young Minds). 

A lot of the discussion focused on schools – embedding mental health education into school life is an important way forward. This can be achieved through PSHE classes, as emphasised by Luciana Berger MP or even science and literature classes where young people examine how mental health conditions impact the brain, as well as why Romeo and Juliet committed suicide – great suggestions by Jonny!

Other points raised include:

  • The green cure- reconnecting with nature scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety, passionately suggested by UKY Voice West rep – Joe Porter.
  • The transition from schools to academies may further fragment mental health support
  • Roll out mental health training to parents and teachers to be better equipped with supporting their children and students respectively

Whilst it is vital to embed mental health education into school life, we know that young people spend more time outside of school and majority of life’s lessons happens outside of the classroom. Therefore the support system needs to be well connected between school, home and social environments – as mentioned in the British Youth Council’s Young People’s Mental Health report which was welcomed by all.

However how are young people who are NEET able to access mental health support, especially in a time where the youth sector is facing more cuts and not resourced enough to provide a statutory service itself, let alone a mental health service.

Nonethless Sarah may be onto something. “Can peer to peer learning provide that vital mental health support for young people?”. 

Young Minds do some amazing work training young activists in mental health. It would be great if there was a young activist in every year in every school, college, uni and youth group. I think this is a great opportunity to help young people and for us to take leadership than wait for mental health support to be equalised to physical health support, as long as the young activist is fully supported by a member of staff and trained in safeguarding.  

So overall the APPG hosted an insightful discussion but we need to explore creative ways to help our peers whilst campaigning for equality in health services. Perhaps one of the solutions is peer support. With the youth sector uniting for Creative Collisions conference this November, it would be brilliant to see mental health at the forefront of the discussions.

Author: UK Youth

UK Youth is the largest national body for the youth sector, who via our member networks and partners, deliver a wide range of informal educational opportunities for young people aged 9-25 years, living in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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