The idea for TRIUMPH Fest first emerged in late 2019. The TRIUMPH Youth Advisory Group suggested that the TRIUMPH Network should host an event to get more young people involved in the network, and we were increasingly meeting other groups of young people who were doing exciting work related to mental health research. We started getting excited about the idea of bringing everyone together….but then this little thing called Covid-19 reared its head and put our event plans on hold.
Finally, two years later, on October 7th & 8th 2022 TRIUMPH Fest happened. The event took place in Edinburgh over two days, with the first day involving young mental health researchers and activists and adults who wanted to learn from them, and the second day focussed solely on young people.
On Day 1, over 150 young people, academics, practitioners and policy makers came together to celebrate young people’s contributions to mental health research and activism. After a welcome from the TRIUMPH Youth Advisory Group and Network Director Jo Inchley, we had presentations from six amazing groups of young people who are, quite literally, changing the world with the work that they do. If you ever need inspiration to get out there and ‘be the change that you want to see’ I recommend checking out any of these groups and projects:
- Beyond: a youth mental health charity that seeks to improve the mental health of young people in the UK.
- YL Project Hope: a youth-led project which was set up during the pandemic to tackle loneliness and isolation in young people by empowering and providing space for young people online.
- Young Changemakers: an innovative programme delivered by UK Youth, The Diana Award and Centre for Mental Health that engages young people from racialised backgrounds in reimagining mental health support.
- Wolfson Centre for Young People’s Mental Health Youth Advisory Group: a young person’s advisory group set-up to inform and support academic research to improve young people’s mental health.
- Glasgow Caledonian University, Mental Health Stigma Project: a participatory PhD research project involving peer researchers, exploring how children and young people experience stigma in relation to their poor mental health.
- TRIUMPH Youth Advisory Group: Our Network Advisory Group provides advice on research projects and strategic input into network plans.
Next up was the Festival ‘market place’ where all of our attendees had the opportunity to share their learning and discuss their work with others. There was a real buzz around the room and it was wonderful to see so many genuine conversations, laughter and connections forming. The afternoon finished with a panel discussion, in which young people and professionals had a chance to share their experiences of co-production. Then those of us staying for the two days had a quick trip to the hotel to get changed before returning for dinner and a ceilidh!
After saying goodbye to some of our attendees on Day 1, Day 2 was attended just by young people and included a series of workshops. The morning workshops were hosted by some brilliant leaders from Debating Mental Health, Leaders Unlocked, and HeadStrong, and provided an opportunity for young people to learn and practice skills to support them to participate in and lead mental health research and activism projects. You find out more about each of these workshops in a series of blogs from some of the workshop attendees.
In the final workshop in the afternoon of Day 2 Festival attendees were asked to consider “How can we create a mentally healthy society for young people?”. Young people worked in groups and were asked to envisage this society with questions like what would it look like, how would it make them feel, and what would it enable them to do? Key ideas from these discussions are captured in a graphic by live illustrator. Through the discussions young people identified five priority areas that would have the biggest positive impact on their mental health: you can read more about these priorities in our workshop report.
TRIUMPH Fest was truly a collaborative – and monumental – effort between TRIUMPH Youth Advisers and TRIUMPH staff. We are so proud of what we achieved in highlighting the work and future hopes of so many incredibly committed young researchers and activists. And we hope that the friendships and connections built over the two days will result in many more successful collaborations in the future.