Kent young person speaks at HeadStart parliamentary event on mental health

A teenager from Kent has spoken in Parliament about her own mental health struggles and the importance of involving young people in shaping and improving the services that support them.

On Tuesday, February 5, four young people, from Folkestone, Ashford and The Canterbury High School, attended a Parliamentary event on the mental health of young people organised by The National Lottery Community Fund for HeadStart partnerships.

The event, hosted by the Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, aimed to help the partnerships highlight their current learning, and support both the sustainability of HeadStart partnerships and the legacy of the programme and its evaluation through engaging a variety of stakeholders. Mr Lamb spoke about why HeadStart must make young people’s mental health a priority.

Jess Griffiths, right, meets the Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP and other guests

Jess Griffiths, 19, from Folkestone, who is a Young Carer and has been involved in the HeadStart Kent programme since 2016, spoke about her own experiences, emphasising the importance of co-production and ensuring young people have a say in how services are developed locally.

During her speech she said: “If someone had said to me two years ago that I would be standing up here in front of this many people – speaking – I would have run a mile! When I got involved in HeadStart I was struggling at school. I didn’t have very good attendance, or a great relationship with my teachers, and was always told I was never going to achieve anything in my life.

“I have helped massively to develop HeadStart and, in turn, HeadStart has played a massive role in creating an environment which has helped me develop and get to where I am today. I really look forward to what the future holds and how I can continue to use and build on the skills and confidence I have developed through my journey with HeadStart Kent.”

Jess spoke about her own mental health struggles as well as the HeadStart programme

Speaking after the event Jess, who won a British Youth Council award for personal development in the Youth Voice Star Awards in January 2019, said: “It was brilliant being able to share my experiences of HeadStart Kent with so many people and having MPs and other decision makers there to hear. I hope it will have a positive impact and improve awareness of what HeadStart is doing with young people.”

All MPs were invited to the event as well as key stakeholders who have an interest in this area. This included government departments working in the field and funders. Representatives from the Department for Education, NHS England, and various charities were also in attendance.

During the event, The National Lottery Community Fund highlighted a report, produced by Anna Freud Centre, which surveyed mental health prevalence, attainment and exclusion statistics of 30,000 young people who attend HeadStart schools.

In Kent so far:

  • 1,353 staff have received training in Resilience, Mindfulness or Young People’s Mental Health First Aid.
  • 5,775 face to face and support interventions have been given to young people across Kent.
  • 10,000 Young People in Kent completed the annual Wellbeing Measurement Framework survey.

Roger Gough, Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Education, said: “It’s fantastic to see one of HeadStart Kent’s young people delivering such a positive message, and the progress Jess has made thanks to the programme is very encouraging. By having the courage to stand up and speak about her experiences, Jess is no doubt helping many other young people across the county to improve their mental resilience and emotional well-being, which will stand them in very good stead for the future.”



Notes to journalists:

Further details about HeadStart Kent can be found at or alternatively, email


About HeadStart

HeadStart is part of the five-year £56 million National Lottery funded HeadStart programme set-up by the National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. HeadStart aims to explore and test new ways to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people aged 10 to 16 by supporting them to build their resilience. Six HeadStart partnerships in Blackpool, Cornwall, Hull, Kent, Newham and Wolverhampton are working with young people, schools, families, charities, community and public services to make young people’s mental wellbeing everybody’s business.

  • The National Lottery Community Fund has awarded Kent County Council £10.2 million to support young people’s emotional wellbeing and resilience over five years. The funding is from The National Lottery Community Fund, which is the largest funder of community activity in the UK
  • HeadStart Kent is part of Children, Young People and Education Services and aims to help young people cope better when faced with difficult circumstances in their lives, preventing them from experiencing common mental health problems.
  • HeadStart Kent aims to make changes through schools, families and within communities and has been designed with young people at its heart to make young people’s mental wellbeing everybody’s business.
  • Young people aged 10-16 years can attend Speak Out, where they are able to get involved in the design, delivery and evaluation of the programme.
  • HeadStart Kent offers free online training for everyone over the age of 16 in Youth Mental Health First Aid. This can be accessed at
  • The HeadStart Kent Mission Statement was developed by young people and their families and is as follows: “By 2020 Kent young people and their families will have improved resilience, by developing their knowledge and lifelong skills to maximise their own and their peers’ emotional health and wellbeing; so to navigate their way to support when needed in ways which work for them.”
  • Children and young people living in Kent, together with their parents, have told HeadStart Kent what support they need to build their resilience:
  • My Wellbeing is not impacted by the pressure to achieve and be perfect
  • There is always someone for me to talk to
  • People around me understand wellbeing and how to promote it

The programme is on track to deliver the programme to the planned number of 133 schools over the five years.

  • The National Lottery Community Fund is the largest funder of community activity in the UK. It puts people in the lead to improve their lives and communities, often through small, local projects.
  • It is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by National Lottery players for good causes. Last year it awarded £583 million and supported around 12,000 projects across the UK for health, education, environment and charitable purposes.

Since June 2004 it has awarded over £8 billion to projects that change the lives of millions of people.

Kent young person speaks at HeadStart parliamentary event on mental health was last modified: February 7th, 2019 by Suz Elvey