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WE WILL fight for change: Cumbrian Youth Mental Health Campaign group head to Westminster

L-R: Reece Pocklington, Jasmine Dean, Chloe Wilson, Lucy Steel, Hanah Pantling, Rebecca Woods, Billy Robinson (kneeling). Photo Colin McPherson

A group of Cumbrian youth mental health campaigners have been invited to Westminster on Wednesday 22 May to meet with Jackie Doyle-Price, MP and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Mental Health, Inequalities and Suicide Prevention.

The group of young people, all aged 15 – 18 and from Maryport and Cockermouth in West Cumbria, are travelling to Westminster as a result of a recent campaign highlighting the shortfalls in youth mental health provision in their local area. They want young people and young people’s mental health to be taken seriously and are demanding urgent action.

The group, aptly named WE WILL, came together in 2017 with the support of The Ewanrigg Local Trust, a community organisation based in Maryport, Cumbria. Disillusioned by long waiting lists for mental health support (up to 14 months in their local area) and devastated by the effects of this on friends and families, they have been actively campaigning to change the way that mental health is being dealt with in their families, their schools, their communities – and on a national level.

They have conducted 18 months of research gathering information from MPs, GPs, social workers, CAMHS, commissioners, teachers, families and their peers. They have been trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid and have encouraged over 300 other people to take up the training. They have worked within their schools and communities to make practical changes, made several short award nominated films to highlight the issues and received local, national and international media attention for their campaign. They have also won several awards for their campaign work.

Rebecca Woods, WE WILL group member said, “We’re hearing of young people who have attempted suicide whose follow up appointment with mental health services comes over six months later. How can this be acceptable? I won’t stop campaigning until the system is working as it should be and until we have stopped young people in crisis having to suffer for months on their own.”

Billy Robinson, WE WILL group member said, “We welcome the extra 2.3 billion pounds for mental health announced recently by the NHS but we have absolutely no confidence that the NHS’ plans will make any real difference to young people here in West Cumbria in the next ten years. We are demanding immediate improvements for our most vulnerable young people.”

Kate Whitmarsh, Development Officer for WE WILL says, “Every teacher, health professional, parent and young person we speak to in West Cumbria is saying the same thing; that our youth mental health system is broken and is failing our young people. This extraordinary group of young people will not stop until urgent change happens.”

The group will also meet Shadow Minister, Barbara Keeley, later the same day. Sue Hayman, Labour MP for Allerdale, will attend both meetings to offer support. As well as the support of their community, schools and peers the group have also gained the backing of North Cumbria CCG, Cumbria County Council, NTW Foundation Trust and the Lord Bishop of Carlisle.

This week they launched a film called BOY as part of Mental Health Awareness Week. The film has been shown in secondary schools and businesses throughout the week and has enjoyed great success on social media, viewed over 10,000 in 5 days.

They have also created a campaign film which explains why they are fighting for change and why they are demanding urgent action.

Links to other WE WILL films, background information and a list of the group’s recommendations that have already been sent to the Minister for Mental Health, can be found here: www.ewanrigg.com/wewill

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