Cheshire East Youth Council named the conference ‘Taboo’ to highlight the stigma that is still attached to mental ill health, which can often lead to making the issue more difficult for young people to manage.
It’s one of many activities of a youth council campaign aimed at signposting young people to support services and encouraging them to talk about mental health issues and seek help if they are struggling.
The virtual event brought together more than 120 delegates including children and young people from 13 schools and frontline professionals from the council, health and community organisations. On the day young people took the opportunity to discuss mental health issues that affect them, and the ways in which professionals can best support them.
Workshops were delivered on the topics of resilience, mental health first aid, five ways to wellbeing, male mental and emotional health, transition into adulthood, and the impact of Covid-19.
Cheshire East Council, partners and young people have been working together to develop services that support the issue of happiness and mental health since the formation of the Cheshire East Children’s Trust in 2015. Listening to and acting on what children, young people, parents, carers, and people who work with families say, is a key element of their plans.
Ruben Barrow, Cheshire East member of youth parliament, said: “For the last three years, young people across Cheshire East have voted mental health as one of their top issues as part of the annual UK Youth Parliament ‘Make your Mark’ ballot. This ballot provides a voice for young people and helps to establish the biggest issues they face.
“Our Taboo conference is just one of the ways we’re reaching out to young people in Cheshire East and letting them know that they are not alone, and that help is available.”
Amelia Oldroyd, Cheshire East member of youth parliament, said: “Today has been about listening to the experiences of young people and working together with schools to share and learn. Our aim is to create a community which cares and to provide someone to talk to, who understands.
“As someone who struggled with mental health issues during high school, I know how important it is to stop the stigma, and create an open culture in schools where we can talk about these issues and make people aware that support is available for those that need it.”
Councillor Kathryn Flavell, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for children and families, said: “Young people told us that they want more information on mental health services that are easy for them to access.
I’d like to thank our members of youth parliament and the youth council for a fantastic event. I’d also like to thank all the children and young people, who shared their views and suggestions on how we can develop services to support mental wellbeing and improve access across Cheshire East.
“We know that the current restrictions and changes to daily life can lead to children and young people feeling frustrated, angry, scared, anxious and alone. Today’s event featured some useful tips and ideas to look after your mental health during the pandemic and recognised that it’s OK not to feel OK.
“There is help and support out there and I ask children and young people to remember that they are not alone. Take the first steps and talk to someone today, we are in this together and lots of young people are feeling the same as you.”
To seek mental health support, children, young people and their families can find help at the council’s online mental health information point: www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/mentalhealthinfopoint