Young Citizens are group of young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds who design and run workshops for other young people on topics including Skills for Wellbeing and Building Support Networks.
For many of them their mental health was affected when they first arrived. Nouh said:
‘My mental health was at the lowest level when I first came to the UK. I was always feeling sad and worried about the people that I’d left behind. It was really hard for me to cope at first and adapt to the English lifestyle – different language, people and culture. I was very anxious and not certain about my future and how I’d fit into this new society.’
They wanted to make a difference for others like them who may be going through similar things as they navigate challenges when new to the country.
Many of the group didn’t understand what mental health was when new to the UK, with lack of education on mental health and no language to describe it. They felt a lot of shame and thought it meant they were unable to look after themselves. A lot of them didn’t know what therapy was and felt a lot of fear around it. The Young Citizens group wanted to unpick some of these misconceptions and encourage others to access support if they need it.
They also wanted to share practical things that helped them such as getting involved in activities, exercise and things they enjoy to help take their mind off problems, as well as speaking to friends. They said that speaking to people from the same cultural and religious background who may be going through similar things can help you to realise you’re not alone.
Ahmed said that it really helped when he was able to share his feelings after carrying them on his shoulders for so long. He wishes he had got help sooner and hopes that young people will access support as soon as possible to stop it getting worse. He said he thinks if he had had seen the animation when he was younger it would have helped him not worry too much about the unknown.
Djamila’s message for other young people is: “Don’t blame yourself for what happened to you. Other people like you have been in the same situation. It’s OK and normal and no-one will judge you. Share your story and open up and talk to a counsellor or a person you feel comfortable with.”
Nouh closes the animation, saying: “At some point I realised it’s OK not to feel OK sometimes. I decided to declare change talking about what I feel. So now I feel more comfortable and confident that I’m OK. Whatever you come through, hard bad, negative will all pass. It’s just a matter of time and belief.”
If you’re interested in hosting a workshop at your local authority, college or youth group and are based in Barnet, Brent, Harrow, Lambeth, Lewisham or Southwark please get in touch with the programme manager on firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more about Young Citizens.