Plymouth’s young people talk about mental health

Young people from across the city have been helping to design a new emotional health and wellbeing service for Plymouth’s secondary and special schools.

Over 60 young people from ten city schools, ranging from age 11-18 took part in a special workshop event organised by Sarah Staples and Josh Pope, Plymouth’s Member and Deputy Member of the UK Youth Parliament.

Sarah Staples and Josh Pope

Sarah Staples and Josh Pope

Recently, the UK Youth Parliament chose better mental health services for young people as their 2016 campaign for England, so this was a perfect opportunity for Sarah and Josh to raise awareness of the issue in Plymouth, as well as giving young people a real chance to be involved in planning their own local service.

Sarah Staples said, “We know this is a really important issue for young people which is why we had it in our original campaigns and why we wanted to do this event – to help more young people discuss it and give their own ideas on how they could be supported in schools in the future. We are really pleased that their views will actually be used to plan a new service”.

More than half of all mental health problems start before the age of 14. They can lead to stereotyping, bullying and social exclusion. Having open discussions and learning about these issues in schools will help to reduce the stigma and encourage young people to get the help that is available, or ask for alternative forms of support.

At the event, young people took part in workshops to give ideas on how teachers could be trained, what issues they would like to know more about, and what support they need. They discussed the possibility of using online counselling – an opportunity to support young people who would like to access help anonymously, at times which suit them and in the online environment which is very much part of young people’s daily interactions.

Young people also had the chance to do some stress-busting activities such as making a stress ball, pampering sessions, finding out about health and nutrition, and getting active by playing indoor sports.

12 year old Spencer said: “I thought that today was an amazing experience for young people and the organisers should be proud of what they have created today and should carry on doing this and helping people. Stay strong”.

14 year old Jasmine said; “Today shows that people do care about our mental health and are doing something to make it easier”.

Councillor Sue McDonald, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said: “It’s absolutely vital that we listen to what our young people are telling us. This event organised by Sarah and Josh brought together a variety of young people from across the city and gave them the chance to put forward their views on mental health support and tell us about the problems they face. By listening to what our young people are telling us we can make sure we are providing the right support services.”

One of the views expressed at the event.

One of the views expressed at the event.

A group of young people will now be brought together to continue to plan and monitor the new service, making sure it meets young people’s needs.

Anyone interested in being part of this group can contact Cathy Bryan, Youth Support Worker on 01752 305146 or email