This month, Our Time was delighted to host a visit from a group of young people taking part in the National Citizens Service (NCS) summer programme. The NCS is a national organisation that runs programmes for young people across the country to provide them with positive challenges and experiences aimed at developing their skills, interests and ambitions for the future.
As part of this, the young people undertake a social action project where they are linked up with a charity, and take on the challenge of working with the organisation to plan and execute the project – all in the space of three days!
On Sunday 11th August, Our Time welcomed a group of Hackney teens at our office in Holloway for an induction to the charity and its work. They had certainly done their research and impressed Helena and Chineye with their existing knowledge about mental illness. However, this session was all about hearing stories. The young people were asked to step into the shoes of a young carer to get them thinking about the experience of living with a parent with a mental illness.
Chineye shared her own story of growing up with a parent with a mental illness and talked about different cultural perceptions and interpretations of mental illness, and how these can sometimes perpetuate stigma and isolation – something which a number of the young people said they could relate to.
Two days later, the group returned to present their ideas for a public awareness-raising campaign to help break the silence and tackle the stigma around mental illness. Helena explained the challenges in reaching teenagers with these messages, and so the young people took on the task of creating content for the website and social media, which they agreed would appeal most to people of their own age. The theme of the project was to think about how they might reassure a friend who was caring for a parent with a mental illness, and they came up with lots of brilliant ideas on how to do this, which they would execute on project day.
On the third and final day, the young people had only three hours to execute their ideas and did this with great enthusiasm (and with the help of chocolate!). By the end of the session, one of the young women had written and performed a very powerful poem which addressed the shame and stigma experienced by so many young people, whilst another group put together a short dramatised role-play of a young carer talking to a concerned friend about her responsibilities and worries.
As a whole group, the young people captured their ideas about what other teens in this situation might worry about, as well as what they could do to help themselves, demonstrating their insight into the issues discussed. In addition to this, other members of the group created a series of top tips and illustrations that we can use on our website and social media to help promote the charity’s key messages.
Thanks very much to NCS and the young people who took part for their time and brilliant work. We look forward to welcoming you back soon!