“Please don’t be sorry; Do something”.
Those words have been imprinted in my mind since attending Drop the Disorder back in November 2019. They are a call to action to everyone, specifically related to changing the landscape of psychiatry and mental health.
If you have ever attended one of these events you will know just how moving they are. I came away with a renewed passion to make a positive impact on the wellbeing of the young people we work alongside. But what? And how? I’m sure I’m not the only one whose been caught up feeling that unless it’s something huge or outstanding, it’s just a drop in the ocean. Then I was reminded of this quote:
Individually we are one drop. Together we are an ocean — Ryunosuke Satoro
To change the landscape of mental health for young people, we need to do it together – with them. And we need everyone’s contribution. This is not a one man band.
The world of virtual and online support
Fast-forward to March 2020, facing the pandemic and lockdown measures we were propelled into the world of virtual and online support. Our priority has been to continue to run our services and support young people’s wellbeing. Already working towards our online outcomes, it became evident that this needed to be accelerated. We saw the opportunity to co-create a website for young people with a difference – for young people run by young people.
All of the content is created and edited by a team of young people with reporters and editor roles, who decide what ideas and pieces go on the site. They have decided that the opportunity to be involved should be open to all young people across Wales. Right now many young people will have something to say; an idea that may help others and will likely be searching for information online.
Platfform 4YP will provide a place for young people to share their thoughts and ideas, particularly in the context of the current pandemic.
How did we go about this task?
We recruited a young people’s editorial team and met online with an initial group of young people, staff and designers to build the initial concepts for the website. From there, we held several follow up meetings to gather feedback and make tweaks before we agreed on the final layout and brand for the website. All the while, the team of young people were creating content, pulling together resources and ideas that they wanted to see on the site. We also looked at the types of social media accounts needed and how these would also be run by young people. We had lots of discussions and training around the practicalities of running a website and social media, including safeguarding measures.
Platfform’s communication team have been a fantastic source of support for the young people, sharing their knowledge without taking over. It has been so uplifting to see the ideas and content that young people have put together and how they have taken to their roles with such ease and professionalism. It has been a great feeling to stand on the side-lines, not really needed because as suspected, young people know what they want and how to work together to achieve their goals.
What have we learned from the process?
- Anyone who works with young people needs to come prepared with a healthy dose of willingness to swallow their pride. As adults and caregivers we want to help, nurture and guide. Our biggest gift to young people is to repeatedly show up with an open mind, ready to listen and push aside our own opinions to make room for something new.
- Setting up a website during a pandemic is not the same as setting up a website in “normal life”. Ideally having face to face meetings, more time to plan meetings, involve more people would have been ideal. Remembering the context in which you are working is important, we all felt a sense of urgency driven by the current climate but getting the balance right between being timely and managing expectations is important.
- A flexible approach to supporting the team of young people has worked well. This means being clear about certain remits and policies and the room young people have within these to move freely. Being clear that you are on hand to help without being a suffocating presence is important. Again this is a balancing act and comes down to building a good relationship and connection with the young people you are working with.
- Things will constantly evolve and change and it’s important to learn from mistakes as you go. No process is completely perfect, but having a bank of scenarios that you know you would do differently next time is an absolute must.
- Young people who are facing their own mental health challenges have so much to offer the community, creating a digital platform for this sharing to happen is one way we can influence the landscape and continue to challenge stigma. It also gives young people opportunities to enhance their own skills and experiences.
Hope for the future
We hope that the new website will be a helpful place filled with hope for young people. A place they can visit and leave feeling less alone. We hope that as it continues to develop, it becomes a hub for all of the wonderful peer mentors that have trained with us. We hope that it is a place for young people to access the beautiful resources produced by young people and our Stateofmind from Platfform project. We hope that it can be used as a vehicle for young people to challenge and campaign for social change. We hope that it will also give adults and professionals some insight into the lives of young people and the wellbeing issues they contend with. Most of all we hope that through being involved gives young people a positive experience and helps them realise their value and strength. We hope this adventure counts towards the important call to action of “do something” and most importantly doing together.