Young people from racialised communities helping shape mental health support

16–25-year-olds in England with enthusiasm for, or lived experience of, mental health and racial injustice will be given the opportunity to change mental health support and influence policymaking and practice.

08/09/21

Young people from racialised communities helping shape mental health support

Young people will be recruited to influence policy, upskill frontline practitioners, and change public attitudes as part of a new project from the charity UK Youth.

Due to ongoing systematic inequalities, young people from racialised communities have seen their mental wellbeing hit disproportionately hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, the charity says.

UK Youth says mental health practitioners trying to support young people from racialised communities (communities experiencing racial inequality) can sometimes lack the required ‘cultural competence’ to understand a lived experience of racism, and that this can magnify existing traumas, such as job losses and educational disadvantages, which have already been heightened by the pandemic.

The Young Changemakers project will see the recruitment of a group of 16–25-year-olds in England with a passion for, or lived experience of, mental health and racial injustice. The recruited Young Changemakers will be given the opportunity to change mental health support by getting involved with policy influencing, engaging, and upskilling frontline practitioners, changing public attitudes, and peer-to-peer support.

The project will be led by a group of eight ‘co-producers’ who will help steer the training and recruitment of other young people, sharing their ideas and insight in all aspects of the programme. Lola, a co-producer for the project, said she got involved to ensure that Black voices are amplified on the topic of their own mental health.

“This programme is important as it provides young Black people with a chance to discuss and plan actions for improving our own mental health in changing the way services are delivered. With all the cuts to youth services our voices have been lost and disregarded but this programme will provide the space for changemakers to express their concerns and solutions to identify the problems.”

Recruitment for the Young Changemakers programme started on 7 September, with inductions taking place in October. Young people part of the programme will be supported to help them deliver projects that impact mental health promotion, protection, and provision.

Ndidi Okezie, CEO, UK Youth, said the past year has been a “social awakening” for everyone to the responsibilities to understand the experiences of others better.

“Both race and mental health have been firmly placed ‘on the agenda’ of critical issues; in very concrete ways. But there is still inadequate support for young people’s mental health, particularly from communities of colour. The lived experiences and diverse cultural backgrounds of young people need to inform the services they access.”

Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive, Centre for Mental Health, which will be responsible for establishing the evaluation methodology and impact tools across the project said racism is “toxic” to mental health.

“Our research working with young people has highlighted the impact of racial injustice on their mental health and how this gets reinforced in their experiences of mental health support. We’re excited to be a part of this project to put young people in the lead in challenging racial injustice and improving responses to mental health.

“This is also an excellent opportunity for racialised young people to be at the heart of research and evaluation to get a more accurate picture of their experiences. Their voices have been missing from the debate. We have a lot to learn, and we hope it will drive real and lasting social and system change.”

The project will be funded by £650,000 from the People’s Postcode Lottery, with additional funding from Comic Relief.

To find out more about becoming a Young Changemaker, visit: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=AqEukJFoO0yxDckm015wkWWofqTR2mZHuDM5k8G5KOBUN1BVMFlFTEIzNFNZWk1HR09WMDM1MVBURS4u

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