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Youth champions make positive change for mental health

Youngsters have been making changes following the Highland Youth Parliament’s conference focused on improving support for young people’s mental health.

Highland Youth Convener Anja Johnston said she was happy to see young people taking control of their future.

The Thurso resident said: “Our recent conference was a much more focused discussion compared to previous conferences which I believe has given young people the tools to go away and have discussions with adults that can help them to implement change.

“The vision of our Mind Us campaign is now starting to become a reality and young people are taking their mental health needs into their owns hands.

“Across the Highlands we’ve got excellent examples of what can be done when young people are given the opportunity to take the lead in making positive changes to better themselves and their peers.”

In Tain, at the end of November, young people will meet with mental health support service charity Mikeysline with a view to becoming local champions. This community-led initiative will support young people having a hub based in Tain every week.

In the Black Isle, the High Life Highland youth team and youth forum are doing 30 days of Random Acts of ‘LoveLeigh Kindness’, with team asking people to make the school and community a kinder place. To find out more about LoveLeigh, visit www.loveleigh.net

In Dingwall, young people arranged a meeting with the senior management team at Dingwall Academy to feedback ideas that came from discussions at the conference. These were well received and will lead to actions on ‘safe spaces’ for pupils within the school, Personal and Social Education, mental health days, and senior pupils supporting younger pupils with PSE subjects and mental health support.

In Lochaber, the Lochaber Health and Social Care redesign is progressing with young people highlighting that the prevention and early intervention provision of mental health is a priority for young people in Lochaber. Youth Development Officers have been able to support young people and gather their views which has culminated in mental health becoming an agenda item for consideration at the stakeholders’ redesign meetings. It is hoped this will form and become part of an integral part of the redesign process.

In Caithness, HLH Youth Development staff and young people have secured three years’ worth of funding from the Gordon Cook Foundation to continue to provide a youth support worker at Wick High School. Heather Manson’s role focuses on supporting young people with behavioural or emotional issues. Heather has recently completed a degree level course through UHI which focuses on mental health. The group is currently planning an online “safe space” group which aims to tackle poor transport links by having somewhere to socialise and build relations with trusted adults so that if they wish to speak about concerns, there’s an opportunity to reach out. Street work sessions have been running in Wick and Thurso as part of the Caithness Pathfinder project.

In Ullapool, the group is looking to do mental health first aid training and with the youth space open behind the Village Hall, there is now a safe space for all young people to relax and have the support from youth work when needed.

In Wick, the team are finding fewer young people on the streets and there is demand for an increased number of indoor sessions. The team are in talks with Pulteneytown People’s Project to set up a weekend youth café for S1-S3 and S4-S6 pupils, offering young people access to youth workers to discuss problems or concerns.

In Inverness High School, wellbeing packs funded by the Inverness Common Good Fund and Skills Development Scotland have been given to pupils to support them in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.