Hiya! I’m Asha and I’m a part of the TRIUMPH Youth Advisory Group. We recently had our final big event – TRIUMPH Fest! One of the highlights of TRIUMPH Fest were the workshops on Saturday morning. Everybody got to attend two workshops of their choosing. One of the workshops I attended was led by Laura and Emily from Debating Mental Health.
I’m not completely sure if I’ve ever attended a workshop before, certainly not a workshop on mental health. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had no clue if this was going to be a lecture, in which we would get spoken at and our engagement would not be required or wanted. Or if it would be like a tutorial, where no-one is really engaging. Lucky for me, everyone at TRIUMPH Fest was extremely passionate about improving youth mental health, so I had nothing to worry about.
The session started with a little backstory to the organisation. Debating Mental Health is an advocacy and rights organisation that works with young people with mental health needs. They work to help empower the young people to gain the skills needed to speak about and advocate for change in mental health topics. Be it public speaking, teamwork or delivering arguments effectively. We got to showcase and develop these skills in the session.
To start, we dove into a little icebreaker, which was drawing a self-portrait in 10 seconds. But the catch was that it had to be with our non-dominant hand. Believe me, this was hard. It didn’t look as bad as I thought it would, so perhaps we all have an artist deep, deep inside of us.
We then got stuck into the hard work. This was splitting into small groups and writing down our answers to the question:
What is important to me in mental health?
It was interesting talking to people about this and seeing what different answers everyone had. It really showed that there is no one answer to such a question or any question regarding mental health research (or life but we don’t have enough time to get into that!). Some of the answers we came up with included:
- Being able to have conversations about mental health that aren’t always about something specific
- Access to support e.g., support groups, family, friends, ourselves
- Having the space (physical or emotional) needed for your own mental health
After such a thorough conversation, you’d think we’d be exhausted. But no, we had already unintentionally moved onto the next stage in the workshop. This was sorting our answers into groups according to theme and then coming up with a short title for each theme. The themes we sorted our ideas into were support and values. We thought support encompassed all the things you could do to support a young person’s mental health. For example, helping the young person access services or activities that help improve or maintain their mental health. Values covered all the values and behaviours we believe are important in improving youth mental health and what behaviours should be avoided. An example being non-judgemental, taking the young person as is without assigning blame or shame.
The final activity of the workshop was a simple agree/disagree exercise. A statement was read aloud, and we had to walk to either the agree or disagree side of the room. We could also volunteer to explain our argument to the group. The statements helped us to examine our own beliefs and whether we had thought about our reasoning. One of my favourite moments was when the statement ‘mental health is a gendered issue’ was read aloud. Most people had very strong opinions, standing on opposite ends of the room. However, one attendee explained that gender is only one factor that can affect mental health and others like race, age, money, or culture can too. Each of these factors affects everyone differently and although specific groups may require specific care. And if we considered it a gender issue, it was also an age issue or a race issue. Suddenly, we weren’t all in two separate lines, more of a muddle in the middle. It was fascinating to see the cogs in everyone’s minds turning and new opinions begin to form.
All in all, the workshop was a success. It achieved its goals of getting us thinking about what we believe is important in mental health. Which helped us to focus on what mental health issues we might want to speak up on and advocate about. It was also just loads of fun to take part in, as it gave us a space to share our opinions and to listen to others. All while having our opinions respected and with the opportunity to appraise arguments and change our minds if we wanted. It’s amazing what you can do in a 45 minute workshop!
In no short words (as evidenced by this blog), thank you to Debating Mental Health for putting on such a fun workshop, and thank you to all the other workshop attendees who made it worth our while!
If you want to find out more about Debating Mental Health please get in touch: