Tackling Invisible Struggles At The Rethink (@Rethink_) Youth Mental Health Conference

On the 29th of Octo­ber Kens­ing­ton Town Hall was host to our first co-pro­duced youth men­tal health conference.

A team of young, expert Cham­pi­ons worked along­side Rethink Men­tal Ill­ness staff & NHS CAM­HS Com­mis­sion­ers to co-design and co-deliv­er our first ever youth men­tal health con­fer­ence. The young cham­pi­ons and com­mis­sion­ers designed the look and feel of the day as well as identi­fy­ing the speak­ers; Jonny Ben­jamin and Hus­sain Man­aw­er. Oth­er vol­un­tary organ­isa­tions con­trib­uted to the day by run­ning work­shops and stands on the day, we are grate­ful to Founders & Coders, Time To Change, Ham­mer­smith & Ful­ham Mind and No Bounds.


The co-pro­duced aims of the con­fer­ence were to cre­ate a safe and wel­com­ing space which facil­it­ated open dia­logue around men­tal health in youth cul­ture. The day also included inform­a­tion on loc­al ser­vices, skills devel­op­ment through inter­act­ive work­shops, shar­ing of volun­teer­ing oppor­tun­it­ies and insight into the trans­form­a­tion plans for men­tal health services.

The con­fer­ence opened with a spoken word poem from cham­pi­on and youth work­er Harry Wills. His pas­sion­ate poem touched on themes of ste­reo­types of being a child in care. His dynam­ic per­form­ance set the tone for the event.

After some power­ful con­tri­bu­tions from the cham­pi­ons and com­mis­sion­ers; Jonny Ben­jamin was the next per­son to speak. He took the audi­ence through his grip­ping jour­ney of under­stand­ing his own men­tal health. Jonny dis­cussed how the kind­ness of a stranger allowed him to pull through one of his toughest points in life. Jonny’s hon­esty showed us that we can use our neg­at­ive exper­i­ences to help oth­ers with their struggles.

We then made our way to the first work­shops of the day. I star­ted with Step-Up Trans­itions, an inter­act­ive work­shop aimed at provid­ing young people with prac­tic­al tools to build their resi­li­ence dur­ing major trans­itions in their lives. The ses­sion was a mix of activ­it­ies, role plays, dis­cus­sions and games to get us reflect­ing on how we can do small things to improve our well­being and resi­li­ence. The work­shop also allowed a chance for young people to have dir­ect dis­cus­sions with some com­mis­sion­ers who are respons­ible for deliv­er­ing young people men­tal health ser­vices, and vice versa.


I also stopped by the Well-being through Art work­shop run by Apex, a spoken word artist from No Bounds. We were encour­aged to reflect on our experience’s and com­mu­nic­a­tion styles to express our indi­vidu­al story through lyr­i­cism. Before I knew it, the group had pro­duced songs and poems about their jour­ney. We were inspired to con­tin­ue util­ising the pen to express our nar­rat­ive out­side of the workshop.

We then broke for lunch. Whilst munch­ing on samosa’s, I vis­ited the many stalls set up in the foy­er. They had plenty of games, free­bies and volun­teer­ing oppor­tun­it­ies on offer. I also had a chance to check out the ded­ic­ated chill-out space, filled with mind­ful col­our­ing, sweets and self-help guides. This gave me a chance to speak to the next upcom­ing speak­er Hus­sain Manawer.

He told me about his upcom­ing pro­ject, Hussain’s Barber Shop, where he planned to cre­ate a space for young people to have a thera­peut­ic talk whilst also get­ting a hair­cut. Our mutu­al pas­sion for men­tal health act­iv­ism attrac­ted more people to come, chill out, and get involved in the lively discussions.

Hus­sain gave a power­ful per­form­ance to kick off the after­noon. He explored issues of cul­tur­al under­stand­ing and soci­et­al expect­a­tions for young people.

“Great work­shops, all the speak­ers were incredible.”

-  Jas­mine, 20 years old, from Hammersmith 

I con­tin­ued the after­noon by sampling the Men­tal Health Aware­ness work­shop. The ses­sion touched on the theme of stigma, and how it can cre­ate bar­ri­ers for young people when seek­ing help. One activ­ity in this work­shop was to write down all the neg­at­ive labels and terms we could think of related to men­tal health. We then ripped up this list togeth­er, as a sym­bol of our over­com­ing social stigma.

I also vis­ited the Digit­al focus group, where three men­tal health apps were show­cased. We spent time eval­u­at­ing the pos­it­ive and neg­at­ive aspects of each. It was amaz­ing to know that the feed­back we provided on what was good and use­ful in these apps is going to be feed dir­ectly back to com­mis­sion­ers in their upcom­ing devel­op­ment plans.

After­wards we all gathered to wrap up the day whilst good­ie bags were handed out. I felt I took home more than just phys­ic­al goodies.

Massive thank you to all of the indi­vidu­als involved in the plan­ning and deliv­ery of the day. As well as every­body who atten­ded the event. It would not have been pos­sible without every single per­son involved!

The con­fer­ence gave test­a­ment that young people ARE inter­ested in men­tal health. They are full of fresh ideas and will­ing to do their bit.


It takes effort from all sides, young people and pro­fes­sion­al, to make trans­form­a­tion work. If you are inter­ested in mak­ing a change and driv­ing for­ward bet­ter sup­port for young people’s men­tal health, then get involved. We are look­ing for young people to make the con­fer­ence even big­ger and bet­ter in 2017!

“It was really power­ful and motiv­at­ing. Every­one should come to these!”

 — Tola, 17 years old, Westminster


By Rodean Vafa

Co-pro­duc­tion Officer at Rethink Men­tal Illness.

If you are inter­ested in becom­ing a Young Cham­pi­on or want to know more about how you can get involved in our 2017 con­fer­ence, please e‑mail us at: Coproduction@Rethink.org

Keep updated on the con­fer­ence on our webpage:


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Watch a trail­er of the entire con­fer­ence here:


Watch a Vox Pop on delegate’s exper­i­ences and views of the day:


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About Guest Author

I Am Hip-Hop magazine welcomes contributions from guest authors. If you would like to review an event, please get in touch! iamhiphopmagazine[at]gmail.com