In this blog, Suzy Syrett, a mental health researcher at the University of Glasgow, has a chat with a young person to discuss why young people’s involvement is so important to TRIUMPH.
< You. Me. Sitting at a table in a cafe with some freshly made coffee. We’ve never met before. It’s throwing it down outside >
Me: Hi, I’m Suzy, I’m 46 and…
You: Wow, 46? Really? That’s pretty old.
Me: It’s not THAT old. It’s not like I’m your Gran or something.
You: 46 though? And anyway my Gran’s 55 so you’re not exactly far off are you?
< leans back on chair and grins >
Me: Okay. Point made. I could almost be your Gran and yes, that’s going to melt my mind for the rest of today. Cheers. <takes a sip of coffee and smiles wanly> Can I get back to telling you why I’m here talking you today in the first place?
You: < shrugs >
Me: I need your help.
You: Right. Hold on, what? Like how?
Me: So a bunch of mental health academics, health practitioners and policy makers – people like me – are looking to young people between 11-24 years to help us find ways to better cope with your mental health needs and look at ways that might prevent mental health issues becoming a problem for you. The thing is, there’s not much point in us coming up with ideas and plans for how to make those things happen; I mean we could but as we’re all over 30 we’d only be guessing at it. So we need…
You: Me. People my age.
Me: Exactly. And as many of you as we can get to take part. We’d love as many young people as possible from as many backgrounds as we can find across the UK to tell us your thoughts on what might help or make a difference to your mental health or to show us how we can better help you. We want to know what you’ve tried that doesn’t work or what gets in the way of you trying to help look after your mental health in the first place. And if you had the opportunity – because that opportunity is exactly what we’re offering – what do you think are better ways of engaging with young people and helping them take better care of their mental health?
You: You keep saying “mental health” but what does that even mean?!!
Me: If I tell you what “mental health” means to me all you’re hearing is what those two words mean to a 46-year-old woman who works in mental health research. Yeah, I might be able to come up with what it means to me but so what? I’m not, as you’ve already pointed out so eloquently, aged between 11-24 so what I think it means is irrelevant. What’s important to TRIUMPH is what you think it means and where we go with that.
You: I dunno. I mean, it sounds like a good idea and I get what you’re trying to do here. But I have a ton of stuff going on in my life right now and seriously, even organising and keeping on top of that is hard enough without taking this on. Plus meetings aren’t really my thing. Yeah, I care about keeping my head well and a bunch of my friends have really struggled with dark thoughts – I guess I do too at times, it’s pretty common – but I have zero idea what I could offer that could make a difference. You guys sound like the experts in this not me!
Me: but that’s kind of my point. We are experts in mental health but we need you as an expert in being a young person. Sure I was that age once but my God, EVERYTHING has changed so much compared to then. Okay, we might be experienced at talking about mental health and have ways to make your ideas come to life but we need you, as an expert at being young in the UK today, to let us know to us how to best get through to people your age. And to do that in a way that actually resonates and means something to you.
That could be something as small as creating and sharing a meme about something mental health related, or post a one off message about something that helped you when you were struggling with those dark thoughts you mentioned earlier. You could get involved in a bigger way. It’s entirely up to you. To put it another way; if our expertise is like a key and your input is the hand that turns it in the lock? Then together we can open a door that might never have been opened otherwise.
You: So what’s behind the door?
Me: Honestly, I have no idea at this point. Personally, I’m hoping that behind that metaphorical door are ways of genuinely making a positive, lasting and meaningful change to how your age group approaches their mental health needs. But whatever it is we’ll only find that out if we work together. What do you say?
< turns and looks out of screen to you, the person reading this >
So c’mon, PLEASE.
We’re right here and we need YOU.
If you’re a young person and want to get involved with TRIUMPH, you can:
– Get in touch with us directly to find out more about our opportunities
– Take part in our online discussion: “Young people’s health: what needs to change?”
– Join the network to receive regular updates
– Follow us on social (instagram, twitter, facebook)