My name is Yara Al-Tuhafi. At the start of November, I met James Morris MP to discuss young people’s involvement in politics, as well as mental health and politics.
I thought James Morris felt passionate about the involvement of young people in politics and was able to explain to me how he himself has engaged with young people in schools and outreach projects which I feel is very important for the future of our government. Creating a relationship with young people allows the government to build a stronger foundation to be able to address the needs of this country’s younger generation who hold a large percentage of votes and have the potential to influence politics immensely.
On the area of mental health, I felt that we were able to discuss a range of issues that need to be further addressed. Some of these issues included stigma and stereotypes surrounding mental health, today’s welfare system for people who are in need of support due to mental ill health, as well as a lack of education on this subject.
James Morris informed me how the government is working towards improving these issues, but it’s important to understand that this will never be a short process.
Personally, I’m extremely passionate about mental health as I am a young person battling such issues. I feel it is key that there is a change in the country’s perception of the issue. I am confident that there will be an improvement in education, awareness and support surrounding mental health in the near future so long as MPs like James Morris continue to engage with people of both younger and older generations.
Overall, I’m grateful for being given the opportunity to not only speak to James Morris, but to also be heard. I’m hopeful that this level of engagement with MPs will continue for other young people.
I joined the All Party Parliamentary Group for Mental Health in 2010, soon after I was elected to represent Halesowen & Rowley Regis in the West Midlands. Mental health is an important issue that affects as all – as individuals, within families and as a society.
Since joining the APPG, and particularly since becoming the Group’s chairman 18 months ago, I have been very fortunate to meet with a wide range of groups who are involved in mental health all over the country. Some of the most interesting conversations that I have had have been with young people like Yara, and these conversations remind us how important it is that we ensure child and adolescent mental health services are up to the job of looking after and treating young people facing mental health problems.
Yara is typical of young people that I come into contact with – eloquent, passionate about what she believes in and eager to engage with politics. I don’t recognise the charge that young people are apathetic about politics. From discussions I have had with students in my constituency I find them to be interested in the world around them and about how they can make a difference in that world. We as politicians must get better at listening to them and making sure that they have opportunities to express their views and that is why I was very happy to meet to discuss these issues with Yara.
The current Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) is under a lot of pressure and is having to deal with an increased prevalence of mental health problems among young people. CAMHS is not working as well as it should for the people it should be helping and I believe that the Service needs to be closely looked at and reforms implemented where required.
But pressure is not just being felt by front line health care services. Schools in particular are having to deal increasingly with students who require help either to deal with issues they are facing at home, through the increased use of social networking and cyber bullying or through pressures to look or act in a certain way. Teachers that I speak to in my own constituency tell me that more and more pupils are coming to them to talk about these problems.
Schools have an incredibly important role to play in the prevention and early detection of mental health problems. And I believe that it’s crucial that they are given the support that they need and that teachers know where they can go when a pupil needs more help than they school can give. School counselling is enormously important and can often prevent problems from escalating, but sometimes outside help is needed. That is why I want to make sure that the Government commitment to 18 week access to psychological therapies is followed through, so that teachers, GPs and parents can be confident that young people will be seen by a professional therapist when they need that help.