This post has been written by Halyna Soltys, a member of the Our Minds Our Future Group in Wales.
Within the Our Minds Our Future – Call To Action, there are 5 demands that young people are campaigning for in order to improve mental health services in Wales. You can read more about the 5 demands here.
The 5 demands were created by young people like me based on our lived experience of mental health, the problems we faced, and what changes we would like to see in order to improve mental health services. We want these demands to be considered by everyone: young people, family members, professionals, and decision makers. To help you to understand how important this is, I’d like to share my personal experience of mental health, and why these demands are important to me.
1 – We want a centralised approach for 16–25 year-olds to find and access support
Toward the latter stages of secondary school and during sixth form, I really struggled with my mental health. Whilst in compulsory education, I knew where I could access support. When I left sixth form at 18 and took a gap year, there was nowhere for me to go. Leaving education meant I went for over a year without accessing support before attending university, where I then found ways to access support should I need it.
Many young people, including me, slip through the net and get lost when we turn 18 as we no longer can access children’s services. We want more support for us during transitions between all services.
2 – We want to see services working well together to help us using a holistic approach I found myself struggling more with my mental health around specific situations, such as when my mum was diagnosed with cancer, or when my grandma died. As mental health encompasses all aspects of our lives and can be exasperated by negative experiences, I would have liked support from other services working together to provide support, rather than feeling like I’m jumping between different support services with no consistency. Services should work together to ensure this happens, rather than working alone or competing with each other.
3 – We want to access face-to-face and online settings that are safe, welcoming, and respectful
When I attended counselling, I did so face-to-face within school time. I had to either leave my lessons, or cut my lunch break short. I felt trapped in a small, enclosed and foreign space with a person that I didn’t feel I could open up to. It was embarrassing and uncomfortable to leave for the counselling session mid-lesson or conversation. Despite this, I felt like I had to accept what was available, rather than feeling like I could attend counselling that worked around my needs and preferences. It was as if I either had to take it or leave it, with no alternative option available. As a young person surrounded by technology, I would have felt much more comfortable accessing counselling in the evenings at home, with someone I felt I could work well with, rather than I was assigned to.
4 – We want influencers and decision-makers to listen to us, hear our voice and be accountable to us
Growing up, I sometimes found it hard to articulate what I wanted to say appropriately. Despite this, I was always quite loud and outspoken. I realise now that this probably overshadowed other young people who were perhaps less vocal, or were not encouraged to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Having adults who are able to listen to the voices of ALL young people and articulate their experiences will be very valuable to creating meaningful change.
5 – We want to see a minister with a portfolio for children and young people up to the age of 25
Listening to young people and amplifying their voice is not enough. We need help from those who are able to make decisions to ensure that young people are at the centre of decisions for young people. We hope to see a minister with a portfolio for children and young people that gives us quality information, knowledge, skills, advice, treatment and advocacy, in a way that best suits us.