Merton young people debate mental health – and win!
A group of young people from Merton, supported by the borough's Young People’s Participation and Engagement Service, took part in the London Debating Mental Health programme led by South West London and St. George’s NHS Mental Health Trust. This is a brand new London based initiative aimed at about empowering young people who have used mental health services, to speak out about the mental health issues that matter to them. The programme culminated in a debate competition event against other teams of young people from London, hosted by Facebook UK, which the Merton team – ‘the Merton Hawks’ – won!
The programme supported the young people to learn debate skills through a 12-week course, led by English-Speaking Union mentors. Sessions were based on a combination of games, informal and formal discussion and were each centred around key oracy skills.
Once they had received the full round of training, Merton’s young people and teams from other London mental health services came together at an event, with key mental health decision-makers, to have honest and open discussions about mental health and the things that matter to them.
Forty young people took part in five debates on topics voted for by them. The motions were: Celebrities have a responsibility to talk about their own mental health; Young people who use mental health services should elect representatives to advise government on mental health policy and; Living in an online world means that there are increasing pressures on young people’s mental health.
The ‘Merton Hawks’ first debated ‘Opposition’ on ‘Young people who use mental health services should elect representatives to advise government on mental health policy’. They were then ‘proposition’ (decided by a coin toss) in the final: ‘Living in an online world means that there are increasing pressures on young people’s mental health’. During both debates, the team also had to respond to questions from the ‘floor’ (audience), which they handled with skill and confidence. Congratulations to the team, on their success.
Merton Council’s Director of Children, Schools and Families, Yvette Stanley, said: "Young people’s mental health is an ongoing and ever growing area of discussion and debate, in which we must ensure young people participate. Offering young people the opportunity to explore and unpack arguments surrounding the mental health agenda helps them to further understand the complexities of this issue. This was an excellent piece of work and a significant opportunity for our young people to generate their own thoughts and arguments from both sides. We are incredibly proud of their win and we look forward to broadening the conversation around young people’s mental health in Merton”.
London Debating Mental Health is a partnership between South West London and St. George’s NHS Mental Health Trust, London and South East Children and Young People IAPT Learning Collaborative, the English-Speaking Union and the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families. The organisers are confident that this partnership will continue to grow to support young people.
For more information about London Debating Mental Health contact Laura Tyrell South West London and St. George’s NHS Mental Health Trust firstname.lastname@example.org.