A new Mental Health Friends handbook for young people has been launched at this year’s Big Mental Health Conversation.
Almost 130 school students, aged 13 to 16-years-old, joined mental health providers for the event at the County Showground in Detling.
The Big Mental Health Conversation gives young people an opportunity to share their experiences of mental health support in the county. As well as taking part in a variety of workshops, including mindfulness with alpacas and African drumming, they were invited to take part in conversations with mental health professionals about the support that is available.
The new handbook provides young people with advice on how to support their friends, including how to start a conversation, what to do when a friend is struggling and safety information. The new handbook, available as an A5 printed brochure or as a PDF was developed by young people who are members of the Kent Youth County Council Mental Health Campaign group.
Here are some quotes from a few of the young people who attended:
“Today I met Alpacas for Mindfulness and we fed them carrots. It was very calming and helped me to be myself.” Bailee, aged 14.
“The drama workshops were really fun, we got taught about our brains.” Cerys, aged 14
“We had fun as well as learning.” Ruby, aged 14
“Very engaging and educational at the same time.” Zara, aged 14.
“It was really good and was worth coming. I learnt always look up.” Kylan, aged 15.
“The sense of community here just shows how willing people are to support others and to improve their support systems.” Emma, aged 18.
More than 25 organisations signed up to take part in a marketplace for young people to meet service-providers and find out more, as well as sharing their ideas and experiences of mental health support for young people in Kent.
Workshops included Mindfulness with Alpacas, African Drumming for Wellbeing, Brilliant Brains Drama, Get Physical – how physical and mental health are connected (NELFT/Active Kent and Medway) and BeYou- LGBTQ+ and Mental Health.
The event was organised by Kent County Council’s Children’s and Young People’s team.
Sue Chandler, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services, said: “Awareness of mental health is so important for Kent’s young people, who have faced unprecedented challenges in recent years.
“It is great to see a wide range of organisations engaging with such an important conversation and bringing this issue to the forefront.”
Jane O’Rourke, the Interim Director of Children’s Services for NHS Kent and Medway, said: “Thank you to everyone who took part in the Big Conversation. It was especially inspiring to see so many young people engaging in the activities, voicing their own concerns, and sharing their personal stories.
“Encouraging children and young people to check in with their emotional wellbeing and talking openly about mental health issues has never been more important.”
For more information about the mental health support available for young people, go to Children and young people :: NHS Kent and Medway (icb.nhs.uk)