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Guest blog – Debating Mental Health

The TRIUMPH Network is committed to putting young people at the heart of our research into youth mental public health. Debating Mental Health provides programmes for young people to support them in speaking out about mental health. Laura Wallis, Founder and Director of Debating Mental Health and TRIUMPH Network member, describes how they empower young people to have their voices heard.

Debating Mental Health is an exciting, new organisation working to equip young people (who have mental health support needs) with the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to speak out on the topics that matter most to them in mental health.

We recognise that there are growing opportunities for young people to make their voices heard across the mental health sector, but many young people feel unable to make the most of these opportunities.  By training young people to debate we help them to feel able to speak out at every level: from their own clinical appointments, to speaking and leading action in policy debates and everything in between.  Every young person has something to say and we support them in how to say that so that they are heard.

So far, our projects have included: day and half-day workshops with youth steering groups; the curation of a special young person’s debate in partnership with the ‘Maudsley Debates’ (King’s College London), training and support for ten young people who independently facilitated the ‘Children, Young People and the Now Generation’ work stream at the Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit in London and; training and supporting young people to speak at conferences (clients include the Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health and the Royal College of Psychiatrists).

Our programmes are new and we’re continually working to develop our ideas so that we can offer even more opportunities to even more young people.  We know that what we’re doing is working, because young people have told us!

All of the young people we asked said that participation in one or more of our programmes had helped them develop skills in public speaking, thinking on their feet and team work, had created new and lasting friendships (some international), and had supported their mental health in some way. We also heard that involvement in our programmes has helped young people to develop skills in critical thinking, empathy and leadership.

One young person said that Debating Mental Health “can help other young people that struggle to learn new skills [and] develop policy makers’ understanding of mental health direct from the source.”

Mark Pearson, Deputy Director, Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, OECD said “the contribution by you at Debating Mental Health in bringing together a diverse group of young people from the UK who presented case studies and developed recommendations to give to ministers was, for me, the highlight of the summit.  Several ministers commented to me on how much they appreciated the fact that young experts-by-experience were involved and that their voice was heard.”

What we’re doing is new, different and exciting because we believe that’s the only way to create and affect change.  Get in touch to find out more, get involved, or work with us: or visit

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