Working with young people to breakdown mental health stigma

Date: 03 April 2017

I Am Beast

Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust (BEH) is working with young people to help breakdown barriers for accessing support.

More than 120 students from five secondary schools across Haringey came together at the Pleasance Theatre in March to discuss mental health and emotional wellbeing - an event co-ordinated by a range of local young persons organisations.

The discussions were inspired by play I AM BEAST, written by theatre company Sparkle and Dark, which explores themes of bereavement and loss.

As one of the young people stated: “Without our mental health it’s difficult for us to achieve the right grades and that can have an impact on our future”.

The play, which was informed by the experiences of students from Haringey through workshops facilitated by Haringey CAMHS, was previously shown at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has been touring the country since.

Talking about the play, a young student, explained: “It helps us understand a different point of view, directly from the person who is experiencing a mental health issue. It made us think about how they express their feelings to other people, and it helps us understand their behaviour.”

The day was a great example of partnership working, bringing together many organisations to support the young people in thinking about emotional wellbeing. This included Young Minds, deep: black, Sparkle and Dark, neuroscientist Kirstie Whitaker, as well as the Haringey CHOICES team and Haringey CAMHS, all of whom contributed to workshops, drama and discussions.

But most importantly, all these organisations aimed to encourage young people to have their voices heard.

Nick Barnes, BEH’s Child and Adolescent Consultant, said: “We want young people to talk about the support that they feel they may need to address their mental health needs.

“Today young people have been to have discussions about how they can support each other as well as exploring what they are looking for from their schools and from wider services in the community.

“With the Children's commissioner, Catherine Swaile and local councillor Pippa Connor being present in the audience, the views of the young people did not fall on deaf ears. Our task is now to build of the hopes of all these young people.”