Conference focuses on young people’s mental health and wellbeing

29 November 2017

Encouraging young people to talk about their mental health was the focus of the first Mental Health Conference held as a joint venture between Hertfordshire County Council YC Hertfordshire and Sandringham School in St Albans.

The event took place on the 23rd November at Sandringham School and more than 300 young people, parents and professionals attended and heard inspirational talks by mental health experts, ambassadors and those who have experienced first-hand the impact that mental health issues can have on young people and their families. There was a special focus on promoting mental health among young men and managing stress, anxiety and body image issues.

The first keynote speech was given by Jonny Benjamin MBE – a leading ambassador for young people’s mental health – and Neil Laybourn, the man who saved Jonny from taking his own life on Waterloo Bridge almost ten years ago.

The pair spoke passionately about the need for mental health to be de-stigmatised and Jonny said: “We need more stories of hope and recovery and we need to spread the message that you can get better. We want mental health to be embedded in all areas of the curriculum so that it is spoken about in schools.”

A second keynote speech was given by the writer and comedian Jake Mills who spoke frankly about his own battle with depression, his struggle to get help and how training and running half marathons helped him to manage his own mental health.

19-year-old mental health campaigner Jamie Harrington brought the day to a close with a thought-provoking message about how parents and professionals can support young people.

Delegates also had an opportunity to attend workshops dealing with practical strategies on managing stress, motivation, depression and suicide prevention. The workshops were led by a range of experts including ex-England rugby coach Simon Hardy, Arsenal FC’s Sports psychologist, players from Arsenal and Saracens and Professor of Clinical and Developmental and Psychology, John Coleman OBE.

Speakers also included those from the Samaritans 'post-vention' team, public health and other mental health providers. Delegates also attended workshops delivered by the Elysium group of hospitals and the Maudsley Hospital and heard about their work with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Alan Gray, Head teacher at Sandringham School, said: “This first conference looking at the mental health of young people was a key step in our journey to ensure that everyone feels they are listened to, valued and able to get support when needed to deal with the various issues that may come their way.

“I was immensely proud of our student mental health champions, who showed passion and leadership in helping to deliver the conference. I would like to thank Debi Roberts and YC Hertfordshire, Sandringham staff led by Mr Kemp and the head boy, Benji Watkins for organising the entire event. I look forward to following our progress in this important component of our work at the school.”

For further information about the event email debi.roberts@hertfordshire.gov.uk