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:
Facebook events page:
Watch a trailer of the entire conference here:
Watch a Vox Pop on delegate’s experiences and views of the day: