Lauren Barclay, 23, was tasked with coordinating an engaging mental health event back in October, on behalf of local organisation Youth Focus North West.
The event was hosted at Gorse Hill Studio in Trafford, and gave youth councillors from many North West Local Authorities the opportunity to listen to key-note speakers, collaborate on campaigns and take part in activities such as yoga and mindfulness.
Miss Barclay, currently studying an MA Journalism degree at the University of Salford, has struggled with her own mental health in the past and feels that her own experiences have enhanced her ability to impact the futures of young people.
“As someone who has struggled personally, I am able to use that experience to inform and educate young people about where they can access the necessary support if they find themselves struggling with their own mental health.”
She added: “It is important to tell your own story but share it in a way that serves as inspiration and hope for young people who may find themselves going through hard times. I feel proud that I managed to get through it, and privileged that I have the opportunity to pass on this knowledge.”
The need for mental health events is ever-growing; one in four people now experience mental health issues every year.
Martyn Shaw, Chief Minion of the Youth Council for Salford City Council, lauded the impact of events such as Saturday’s conference.
“It is huge,” he said. “Having young people working together and campaigning on issues is incredibly significant. The fact that it is youth-led is incredibly important and the interaction that young people have is crucial.”
Organisers Youth Focus North West are an 11-year-old organisation whose primary focus is giving young people a voice. Stuart Dunne is the 46-year-old CEO of YFNW, and he explained how organisation was conceived through overwhelming demand from young people.
“A number of people from different youth councils requested it and it provides a space for young people to come together, who otherwise wouldn’t have. Young people come to these events from the top of Cumbria to the bottom of Cheshire.”
Mr Dunne further highlighted the overarching outcomes of the organisation and the events that they provide.
“Systemically, we want to give young people a say in politics and service. But also, for the young people it creates a sense of belonging, agency, and pride. We provide a safe space and opportunity for that to happen.”
Looking beyond this event, Salford Youth Council revealed plans to implement a wellbeing movement in primary schools across Salford in 2022. This movement will be backed by Youth Focus North West.