Mental Health Awareness Week presents an ideal opportunity to highlight the importance of mental health amongst the younger demographic living in Cheshire East. The latest population figures estimate the borough is made up of 380,800 residents, 48,100 aged 5-15 and 15,300 aged 16-19.
Cheshire East have two members of UK Youth Parliament; who believe it is important to support access to local mental wellbeing benefits, for our younger generation. As the lockdown relaxes, there are key services that are available to help anxiety and depression.
Amelia Oldroyd, Cheshire East member of youth council, said: “Our generation know they face an uncertain future. I am keen to support them through their anxieties. A positive, healthy mind and encouragement will aid their success.
“A range of mental health support services dedicated to young people are available online via the council’s Covid-19 Mental Health Information Point. Many are also an active partner in the Emotionally Healthy Schools Programme.”
Ruben Barrow, Cheshire East member of youth council, said: “I want to signpost young people in Cheshire East to the best available resources. With access to counselling, guidance for young carers and bereavement services – providing a free, safe way for young people to receive the appropriate advice and support online.
“Coronavirus has restricted normal life and influenced our mental health – we are missing our friends, after school activities and general freedom. Education has been disrupted and dreams of university, apprenticeship schemes and work are static.”
Councillor James Barber, champion for young people, said: “Amelia and Ruben are doing a fantastic job of shining a light on young people’s mental health during this pandemic. Our ambition is for every child and young person in Cheshire East to have the best start in life, be safe, happy, healthy and to reach their potential.
“Cheshire East Children and Young People’s Trust (CYPT) is a fundamental partnership of local authority, education and health organisations that support this. Funding is allocated for the wellbeing of children as well as their parents during difficult circumstances.”
1. What has the lockdown taught you to appreciate and value?
Amelia: The lockdown has taught me to value the little things. Such as going outside, going for meals, enjoying school life. It has made me appreciate my whole life more because you never know when it can be stripped.
Ruben: I would say it has made me appreciate being around lots of people and having regular social contact with friends.
2. How have school closures impacted pupil’s mental health – what are your thoughts on delaying exams?
Amelia: School closures have had an impact on pupil’s mental motivation, resilience and determination. Me personally, being a 2020 leaver, it feels as though I have gone to school for five years to achieve nothing as a result of exams being cancelled.
Ruben: I know it has been very hard on some people’s mental health and the exams are a worry especially for those who are sitting them next year like myself.
3. Is there any advice you can give to young carers during this time, who already have a lot of pressure at home?
Amelia: Keep talking to whoever you trust and/or feel comfortable talking to. Every new day is a step closer to this being all over and you’re doing amazing.
Ruben: To all the young carers I would say try your best and if you can access the support made available on the council’s Covid-19 Mental Health Information Point, try and do so. Thank you and you are doing a great job!
4. What do you find constructive to help manage your own mental wellbeing?
Amelia: I try and exercise every day, keep in regular contact with family members and try and limit time on my mobile devices - learning something new each day.
Ruben: I think exercise is a good tool to maintain positive mental wellbeing.
5. If you are representing young people as member of UK Youth Parliament and a champion of mental health, what is your message?
Amelia: It’s ‘ok not to be ok’, and it’s ok to ask for help. There are so many people and services that can help you. You aren’t alone. Always spread positivity, always be kind. Mental health is something we can all tackle as a collective.
Ruben: Try and stay positive and know that we will beat this - life will return to some form of normal.