Getting advice from the experts – Our Time works with HeadStart Newham Youth Panel

Since May, Angela and Helena have been having a great time working with the HeadStart Newham Youth Panel! As part of our Young Londoners’ Fund project in Newham, we set up a Young Persons’ Advisory Group to raise awareness about parental mental illness and its impacts, and to get input and advice from young experts on how to reach and engage teenagers in the charity’s projects.

We’ve had three sessions so far, and the young people have wow-ed us with their contributions and insights! So far, we’ve stepped into the shoes of a young carer of a parent with a mental illness, watching and sharing reflections about the Jas film. We’ve also talked a lot about language and labels, and how the way mental illness is spoken about day-to-day can have a negative impact on a young person’s self-esteem:

When people use a word, they don’t know its meaning. More education is needed, so that we use the correct language, as the wrong words can be damaging.”

In July’s session, we looked at the topic of self-care and the importance of this, but also recognised that this can be difficult for a young person whose parent has a mental illness. We watched and discussed COPMI Australia’s video on “Looking after yourself”, with young people giving additional suggestions. We spoke about the delicate balance of helping around the house, whilst also making time for yourself: “If you’re supporting your parent, you’re learning to cope with lots of responsibilities.” Other suggestions included:

  • Try to keep protected ‘You Time’ – negotiate time that’s just for you with your parent / others who are supporting your loved one
  • Do something nice for yourself every day
  • Have time just to be silly
  • Ask others to step in and help where you can, to share the load
  • Taking a step back from the situation, and just taking some time to breathe

The Young People’s Advisory Group has already got to work on providing crucial feedback on Our Time’s latest animations which are in development, advising us on our social media strategy, and creating content for our website and social media.  

This poem “My mental health and me” has been written and performed for Our Time by Mariana Faty Embalo:

“My mental health and me” – written and performed Mariana Faty Embalo