You Matter: What we learned running mental health events
Two teenage boys decided to run events focused on mental health for young people in their local schools and churches, with help from The Spark Fund. Here’s what they learned, written by Tilum, aged 15.
You Matter – a project focused on mental health events for young people, made possible by The Spark Fund – was started by Tilum Patel (age 15) and Alex Sparke (age 17), two young people part of Christ Church W4’s youth group in West London. After applying for funding, they ran 2 events: a pilot in June 2021 and a bigger ‘launch event’ back in September, all with the help of their youth group peers and leaders.
“One Friday night at youth club, after many discussions about the pressures of school and life we dedicated a whole youth session to talk about mental health and provide space to share and pray. Out of that evening, it became evident that schools have limited capacity to listen to and support young people enough in this area, and we said that we should talk about this with other young people. We had the idea for an event with different seminar options, all about equipping young people to gain better mental health, with 1-to-1 counselling available from professionals. The idea for You Matter developed from there.”
What is You Matter?
You Matter is for young people aged 11-18. The concept is all about telling young people that they matter and their mental health matters. We aimed to do this by hosting a safe space for young people to process the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic and be equipped to pursue good mental health practices in their everyday lives.
The goal was to help young people process the pandemic they have lived through and the way it has impacted their lives and mental health, then send them home encouraged, with new practices to try as they move on. As part of the event, we wanted to share how faith had helped us through poorer mental health and offer people the opportunity to explore what the Christian faith is about.
We wanted some slots where young people could book a 1-to-1 session with a professionally qualified local counsellor.
We thought a combination of mini talks on how to pursue good mental health practices would pair well with small group discussions.
We also wanted each young person who attended to walk away with a goody bag – filled with resources and tips to help support their wellbeing. We also wanted to give them pizza!
We tested out a stripped-down version of the concept with our own youth group as a pilot – it went down really well, so we planned a bigger event to invite other youth groups and friends from our schools to.
With help, we publicised the event in local schools, other youth groups and plugged it to our friends.
What happened at the big ‘You Matter’ launch
In September, 45 young people joined from different youth groups and local schools – quite a few young people invited their friends. 12 young people volunteered on team, so in total there was 57 young people there, plus lots of youth leaders! Tilum and Alex hosted the event, and the team prepared and ended with prayer. There were two speakers: Joel Harris from Kintsugi Hope and Lauren Ward – a 20-year-old with a powerful story to share about mental health through her teen years. Two local counsellors – Dawn and Harvey – helped facilitate small group discussions and offered 1-1 counselling slots, which were all booked. There was a creative ‘chill’ area, where there was soft worship music, a space to pray, reflect and journal around different scriptures on display.
We collected feedback from the young people who attended at the end and gave them amazing goody bags (mental health charities donated resources, along with Paperchase!) and we ordered pizza for everyone. We wanted the atmosphere to be warm and welcoming, especially considering the depth of our topic.
Insights from young people who attended
The general impression was that young people would like more of these events. We asked what topics they’d like covered and got these answers:
other mental disorders,
how to combat judgment from others,
how to be vulnerable,
how to help friends with their mental health,
mental health in regard to school,
faith and what the Bible says about mental health.
We also asked a few key questions:
What is one thing from the event that has positively impacted you?
It helps if I am stressed, I can now do something to help myself
Good tips from the people
I liked how it was on the same level and the beanbags were nice
Being able to learn more exercises to feel and think more positively
The counsellor slots
I liked being able to share how I feel without feeling pressured
Amazing talks by inspiring people
I feel like I know what to do when I’m anxious
Great open discussion on topics rarely discussed
That other people go through the same thing
The fact there are many ways to improve my mental health if I’m struggling
I can take some of the tools away with me
What did you most enjoy about this You Matter event?
The talks – 35% (the talks were 10-15 mins with 10 min discussion time in small groups afterwards)
The discussion time – 31%
The separate quiet space for chilling – 20%
The atmosphere – 17%
The food – 26%
The 1 to 1 counsellor slots – 13% = 6/45 (there were only 6 slots so every person who had a counselling slot enjoyed and benefitted from that the most)
Seeing other young people here – 8%
That it is led by people my age – 9%
Other – please specify: seeing people I knew, the relatable people, the welcoming atmosphere
Overall, we were extremely happy with how the bigger event turned out!
While there isn’t currently a plan for future events, we hope this provides a lot to learn from for others who like the concept and want to try it. Schools have a long way to go on provide safe, professionally supported spaces for young people to talk about their mental health and our hope is that this can happen for others too. We believe You Matter had an impact on the lives and faith of those who attended and hope to see similar things happening for young people in the future, even if we can’t run another one ourselves right now (exams inbound!).
Levi is the Creative Lead for Growing Younger, a priority of the 2030 Vision for churches in the Diocese of London. Levi is part of the Children & Youth Support team, volunteers in youth ministry and leads worship at his local church. Levi completed a degree in Applied Theology before working in marketing and design in the corporate space, bringing both worlds together in his current role.
Levi Phillips from the Growing Younger team took a few minutes to chat with Samuel Taylor about the story behind Youth East and its first conference for young people in East London, coming up in March.
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