Amber and Sophia meet Jeremy Corbyn MP

Amber-SophiaAmber and Sophia

On the November 3rd, we were invited to Portcullis House to discuss our campaign on Making Mental Health Awareness compulsory on the National Curriculum with the Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn.

Sophia, having suffered from Anorexia Nervosa in the past, alongside Amber who had to learn how to deal both with Sophia’s illness and her personal despair at the situation, wanted to hear his opinions on what we can do to change “ the Dark Ages of Mental Health”.

Although we had already spoken with a number of MPs and given speeches both on BBC radio and Channel 4 News in addition to the House of Lords, this meeting was equally valuable in pushing our campaign further. We learnt more on what we can do on the political side of our campaign to promote the cause, such as creating an Early Day Motion in order to raise awareness within parliament on what we are trying to do.

Moreover, during a casual discussion on our University applications, the topic of stress at top universities arose and the number of stress-related mental health problems that often proceed as a consequence. This made us even more determined to promote education on mental health awareness so we can enable young people to become resilient and also prepared for the every-day stresses that will arise during adolescent years. We also discussed how more funding is required in Mental Health Services, as many are not fortunate enough to either be near NHS services or be able to fund the cost of private treatment. The conversation we had was not only thought provoking but gave us plenty of ideas to work on for the future.

If you would like to support our campaign please click on this link and sign our petition!(http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/59244) Or if you would like to know what you can do to get involved, please don’t hesitate to contact us on either of these two email addresses: soppar00@highgateschool.org.uk or ambvan00@highgateschool.org.uk.

Thank you so much to the Centre for Mental Health for this opportunity to meet Mr Corbyn and thank you to the man himself, for inspiring us to continue in our pursuit of good mental health. As Gordon Smith once said: “We take our kids for physical vaccinations, dental exams, eye check-ups. When do we think to take our son or daughter for a mental health check-up?”

 

Jeremy Corbyn MPjeremy_corbyn

I always enjoy meeting students, and meeting Amber and Sophia from Highgate Wood only confirmed this.

These two very interesting students from Highgate Wood School visited me at the House of Commons as part of Parliament Week. It was a memorable visit and the students also spent some time talking to my assistant about the tools of parliament including EDMs and Parliamentary Questions. It was immediately obvious from the outset that Sophia and Amber are clearly two very impressive individuals with a mission to enlighten us all to the fact that Mental Health can affect any one of us and importantly, that we can, and do recover from it in its many guises. Their ‘Stop It Before It Starts’ campaign was particularly commendable and highlights the importance of providing better support to young people at schools regarding mental health.

Hopefully these young women went away better informed on the workings of parliament than when they arrived. It is also quite significant that their friendship, and Amber’s concern for Sophia when she was suffering very badly with Anorexia Nervosa brought them to a better understanding of mental illness, and indeed the determination to learn more about solutions and treatments and what part the political process plays in such things. There is still so much to do around mental illness, and there is much stigma associated with it, often stemming from ignorance. Eating disorders in particular often bring a lot of shame to the sufferer and it is time this needs to be dispelled before we can begin to progress. We must keep our NHS safe and buoyant, and ensure that this very important area gets the priority it deserves in the process.

Parliament Week

alec_williamsParliament Week (14-20 November) is an annual programme of events that aims to connect people with parliamentary democracy in the UK. This year, Parliament Week has set up a campaign called ‘Do Democracy’ which focuses on young people and their engagement in politics. In keeping with this theme, the Centre for Mental Health set up a project centred on the exciting opportunity for young people to meet with MPs to discuss mental health.

The MPs and the young people met on the 3rd and 4th of November at Portcullis House, London and were then asked to reflect on this experience in a blog which we will release on each day of Parliament Week.

The meetings were between:

1. Amber, Sophia and Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn. Amber and Sophia are two young people (17) attending Highgate School. Sophia suffered from Anorexia Nervosa and Amber, her best friend, felt disheartened by the lack of support she could offer due to her lack of knowledge regarding the issue. Over the past 18 months they have set up and campaigned for ‘Stop It Before It Starts’ – a campaign that aims to have Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing placed on to the National Curriculum. Please find their petition at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/59244

2. Yara Al-Tuhafi and Conservative MP James Morris. Yara is a young person (18) from South London. Yara is associated with the Who Cares Trust – an organisation that supports young people in care. Yara has had long-standing interest in mental health due to her own life experiences and is especially interested in the stigma associated with mental health.

3. Frankie Hopkins, Amira Nandhla and Labour MP Glenda Jackson. Frankie (16) and Amira (13) are two young people from Gloucestershire associated with Action for Children. Frankie and Amira both have personal experiences of mental health issues and have long been interested in how young people could get better mental health support – they were very keen to discuss this with Glenda.

This project provided a brilliant opportunity for young people to have their voices heard and hopefully the blogs will provide inspiration for more young people to continue the conversation about mental health – we hope you enjoy reading them!

Alec Williams