Young people chose the topic of mental health when they spoke out at Medway Youth Parliament’s conference.
Just Because You Can’t See It was the theme of the annual gathering organised by the group at the Corn Exchange, Rochester, on Tuesday.
Chairman James Peck said: “We’re here to de-stigmatise the topic of mental health because it’s become an increasing issue for many young people across Medway and the county.”
Scroll down for video.
James, a pupil of Robert Napier School, Gillingham, has been a member of MYP for three years and said the atmosphere was vibrant with more than 100 young people aged between 11 and 18 from schools across the Towns in attendance.
He added: “They’re passionate about mental health and they’re talking about it and they’re discussing it and it’s great to see young people being a part of this event and part of the entire topic as well.”
Workshop topics included community wellbeing, destroying the stigma of mental health, and five steps to mental health.
Emily Hodgson, from MidKent College, Gillingham, ran the stress management workshop. The 16-year-old said the youth parliament is an opportunity for her voice to be heard by local politicians, councillors and other adults.
“If they don’t hear our views how are they going to know what your people want,” she said. “How can they say actually we’re going to do this, but hang on, what about the young people, we haven’t asked their opinion yet. This is going to drive to get our voices heard.”
One of the workshops looked at celebrities who are outspoken about their mental health.
James, 17, added: “Young people can be inspired by people who have mental health issues because that’s not a hindrance and that’s something we want to push out to people - it’s not a hindrance, it’s just part of who you are.”
As well as workshops the participants wrote pledges, took part in a Speakers’ Corner, and visited stalls run by health and community groups.
Vice-chair Luke Morgan said: “The pledges that we made will help to remove the stigma of mental health so people aren’t scared to talk about it and the more people talk about it, the more will be done about it.”
Watch: What do Medway's young people think about mental health?
The 16-year-old, who also represents Medway in the UK Youth Parliament, said he would like to see more services offered between the low level support at schools, and before you need to see an officer from the child and adolescent mental health services team (CAMS).
Paige Hope, 17, was representing Thomas Aveling School, Rochester, at the conference and said the event helped to raise awareness of mental health.
She said: “There’s many people in my school who think there’s no one there but there are lots of people. Now that they’ve got the information, these people can go and talk to their friends and more people will spread that information.”
To find out more, visit medwayyouthparliament.co.uk