A new campaign aims to tackle young people’s mental health concerns and unite Croydon in supporting them to build their resilience, feel happier, and thrive to reach their full potential.
From this week, the council’s award-winning Choose Your Future will focus on inspiring young people who feel stressed, anxious or overwhelmed – for example, about exams, or other challenging situations – to ask for help when they need it.
Choose Your Future, which has won national recognition for its work to tackle knife crime and support young people to make positive life choices, has launched this new campaign to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week 2019.
This follows feedback from Croydon’s most recent annual youth congress, where young people highlighted mental health as one of their top three concerns, along with crime and safety, and jobs and success.
Half of all adults with a lifetime mental illness, excluding dementia, will experience symptoms by the age of 14 and up to 10% of young people may self-harm. It is a crucial time and the choices young people make can affect their future.
As always with Choose Your Future, young people are at the heart of the campaign talking about how and where they look after themselves, look out for others and choose to get help if they feel stressed or worried.
The campaign includes billboard posters around the borough from Wednesday 22 May to signpost young people to where they can get help.
Local organisations have also lent their backing to the campaign, with more than 100 signed up in support.
Choose ambassador Tya Cunningham, age 16, explained how expressing herself through music helped her cope with bereavement. Tya, a pupil at Oasis Shirley Park, said:
“Last year, I was feeling sad and angry due to the deaths of people that I knew. This changed me and it also affected my eating. I lost weight and people were concerned. I was in denial because, like me, a lot of young people keep things to themselves and don’t want to ask for help. As a rapper, I was able to express myself and release my emotions through my music. This helped me to believe that things would get better. My performing and attitude improved, and teachers and others around me were happier for me. I do now have a brighter future.”
Another Choose ambassador, Riddlesdown pupil Brandon Yipp-Cammish, aged 15, revealed how talking things through can help to ease stressful situations.
He said: “My sister has a disability and it upsets me when I see her struggling, especially when she loses the ability to walk for some periods. This makes her frustrated and worried and it can also be distressing for me at times. I don’t want her to feel she is being a burden, which is what she has said to us before. It helps me to feel better by talking to my Mum about how I feel. We can then work together to support my sister and do things to make her feel happier.”
The mental health campaign partners include Off the record, Croydon Talking Therapies, Ment4 and Young Croydon, with other services listed on the Choose Your Future website www.choose-your-future.com
Councillor Alisa Flemming, Croydon Council’s lead for children, young people and learning: “Choose Your Future is about supporting our young people to make positive choices in life, and one of the most important decisions a young person can make is to look after themselves, and to ask for help when they need it. Mental health has a major impact on every aspect of our lives, so we want to make sure all our young people can access help at the earliest possible stage, when and where they need it. If you feel as though you are struggling, whether they are stressed by exams, something happening at home, or even something you can’t identify, you are absolutely not alone. We work with a huge number of organisations to ensure that young people can access free, confidential, advice and support, so please do get in touch.”
Councillor Jane Avis, Croydon Council’s lead for families, health and social care: “We want young people to know it is not unusual to feel anxious or stressed, and, through the Choose Your Future campaign, they do not need to feel alone or overwhelmed. Good emotional wellbeing and mental health are vital if young people are to enjoy life, to achieve, and to cope better with challenges. It is really important for them to look after themselves by staying healthy and to seek help if they need it. Setting realistic goals, taking breaks, eating and sleeping well are just some of the practical things they can do to feel better, worry less and enjoy life more.”