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The future looks bright

by Shanjida – 25th Jan 2019

My name’s Shanjida, I’m 20 years old and volunteer for an amazing voluntary group called YouthWatch Leeds. So, what exactly is YouthWatch I hear you ask? Well, we’re a group of young volunteers aged 14-25. We’re like the watchdog for health and social care services in Leeds set up to help better the experience and quality of services delivered to young people like you and me. As we like to say ‘Our voice counts’.

As we all know if you dig into the idea of mental health, you’ll find that stereotypes still stand and misconceptions still arise. But what matters is what’s actively being done to help better this? One of the things put in place in Leeds is a programme called MindMate Champions. It includes ‘MindMate lessons’ which can be used to teach children and young people about social, emotional and mental wellbeing.  Schools can also become MindMate Champions, which in a sense is like receiving a gold stamp for being a MindMate friendly environment. That’s great, right? Implementing is awesome, but how well is this actually working within schools? And is it having the impact that everyone had hoped for?

So, what did YouthWatch do?

We agreed that the only way we could get answers was to ask those on the receiving end.  And so, we embarked on this exciting project by drafting a questionnaire to find out what children thought about the MindMate lessons and website. We also carried out interviews with key staff members about their experience of the MindMate champion’s programme.

“Helping to develop the questionnaire we used for the MindMate school surveys was very important to me, as I believe mental health is something we should take very seriously from a young age. I think that the next generation should be encouraged to talk openly and be taught about it via MindMate.” Imogen, YouthWatch volunteer.

I had the opportunity to visit a primary school where almost all the children I spoke to were aware of MindMate and had a really deep understanding of mental health and wellbeing.  At one point I was left teary eyed when one child said that, to her, MindMate was like the friend that helps you back up when you fall in a playground, how it reminded her that everything is going to be ok, and then shows you how to be happy again.

Overall, we found that both students and teachers thought MindMate was having a significant impact. Going forward, if MindMate Champions keeps listening to the views of children and young people they’ll be able to make the programme even better – after all ‘their voice counts too’ (see what I did there, YouthWatch reference).

It takes education to redefine a stereotype, and it’s reassuring to know that my younger siblings will have MindMate in their education. The future for Leeds sure looks bright with MindMate paving the way.

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