Milton Keynes Youth Cabinet raises awareness of mental health

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Milton Keynes’ Youth Cabinet (MK YCAB) hosted their MySayMK: Mental Health Conference at the Council’s Civic Offices on Tuesday (10 July) as their campaign to get young people in the city talking about mental health came to its conclusion.

Last year more than 10,000 young people voted mental health as the second most important issue affecting young people in Milton Keynes.

MK YCAB created a campaign as a result – Mental Health & Me:MK – to engage young people and get them thinking and talking more about mental health and wellbeing.

A video was recorded and produced in which young people from MK spoke openly about how mental health made them feel, before the footage was shared with children in school key stages 1-5. Having been inspired by what they had seen, MK YCAB asked them to submit a creative piece of artwork, such as a poem, painting, song or short film to reflect the way they feel about mental health and wellbeing.

A judging panel including representatives of local businesses, organisations, media and councillors met in June to cast their eyes over a variety of inspiring entries before winners and runners up for each of the five key stages were announced at yesterday’s event. An online brochure containing shortlisted pieces of artwork can be read here.

Members of YCAB were also joined by local schoolchildren on Tuesday to take part in six mental health workshops. These included Drugs and Mental Health, Brain and Trauma, as well as Relationships and Bullying, which were delivered by members of MK YCAB, Compass, Q:Alliance, YiF and MK Council.

Mindfulness practitioner Tony O’Shea from Mindful Me also delivered a practical activity to support conference delegates with their own mental health and wellbeing.

He said: “It was terrific to see so many young people and their teachers and school staff engaging in this important event and in the mindfulness exercise I taught.

“Talking about difficult thoughts and emotions isn't easy but creating a culture of openness and non-judgement and giving young people practical self-help tools can make a huge difference. MK Council and our local schools are leading the way to positive mental health for all.”

Roz Mascarenhas, youth participation worker at MK Council, said: “Mental health is such a big issue, not just in MK but across the country, so taking on this campaign was a challenge – but YCAB was ready to take on.

“The biggest issue they face is trying to reduce stigma and get people talking. MK YCAB’s mental health project has been split into four parts and is creating lots of opportunities for conversation to get people talking more openly about the issues surrounding mental health and wellbeing.

“The creation of the eBook now means the conversation can still continue out in the MK community as people browse through it and see all of the young people’s artwork.”