'It's important to remember that your exam results don’t define you ...It’s an achievement in itself, just to have made it through this past year with all its challenges and I am proud of the way our young people have coped." Cllr Mairéad Healy (Romsey)
Two Cambridge Labour city councillors have today launched a two-week mental health campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues and share experiences and tips. Week one (9 – 15 August) will focus on young people’s mental health. The second week (16 – 23 August) will highlight adult mental health and also talk about the importance of open spaces for wellbeing.
“There are few people who’ve not seen an impact on their mental health over the past eighteen months as they’ve navigated life during a global pandemic. The constant uncertainty, feelings of isolation, stresses of thinking about to protect our most vulnerable family members and neighbours – it’s all taken a toll.
That means it’s more important than ever before that we talk to each other about our struggles and break down the stigma. The more open we can be, the more people will feel able to seek the help they need. Cambridge Labour’s campaign will hopefully start some of those conversations.
Next week, we’ll also be focusing on some of the ways the city council has been counteracting some of the mental health challenges that one in four of us will face each year, especially the positive effects of our beautiful open spaces.”
Cllr Alex Collis (King’s Hedges, Executive Councillor for Open Spaces, Sustainable Food and Community Wellbeing on Cambridge City Council)
Cllr Mairéad Healy (Romsey, Lead Councillor for Health and Wellbeing on Cambridge City Council) has highlighted the potential mental health impacts of the coming week ahead, which will see young people in Cambridge receive their GCSE and A-Level results:
“Exam results time can be an incredibly stressful period for young people, even without the unprecedented additional pressures that our young people have faced these past two academic years, during the pandemic. Missed classes, uncertainty of assessments, isolation from friends and extended families, and the wider impact of the pandemic on families.
It is just unimaginable really for our young people, having to contend with all of these challenges whilst at the same time having to deal with the pressures of assessments and results.”
On dealing with these exam stresses, Cllr Healy added:
“For young people, it’s important to remember that your exam results don’t define you and that, regardless of results, there are always appeals routes and other options available to you that will let you follow your passions.
It’s such an achievement in itself, just to have made it through this past year and all the challenges it has brought with it and I am so proud of the way our young people have coped with these.”
Mairéad also shared her own experiences of dealing with difficult times:
“When I was in my twenties, I faced the tragedy that so many families face of suicide, when my little brother went missing. Being still quite young myself and having already lost my mother, who had raised us on our own, shortly before that, I felt my whole world had completely fallen apart. It felt like I and my little sister were all alone in the world, having lost the rest of our immediate family.
When I think back now, it took 4 months for us to locate his body and I barely know how I got through it, such was the trauma of searching for his body along the riverbanks every day. However, I think some things were important in getting through it.
First of all, being able to talk openly with my grandmother and uncles and aunts made it possible to get through the situation day-by-day. Also, the long periods of walking each day were incredibly healing – and it also tired me out, which helped with sleep. But it was also important to go easy on myself. I remember many days during this time hiding under the duvet when visitors came to the house and not being able to drag myself out of bed at all on some of the worst days – and that’s okay too.”
Mairéad had some advice for young people who might be struggling with their mental health and for parents or other family members supporting them;
“For young people who might be struggling and going through difficult times, the best piece of advice I can give, is to try and talk to someone – anyone – who you can trust.
Getting things off your chest can be incredibly therapeutic and releasing. For some, this might be with a family member or a friend, but for others, it may mean calling a helpline such as NSPCC (for under 18s) or the Samaritans (for young people over 18) or accessing professional mental health support via your GP.
For many young people that I have worked with in the past, who also encountered difficult times, many of them talked to me about the healing power of music, art, computer games, getting outside in open spaces and spending time with family pets, which can also be important coping mechanisms for young people in helping to get through difficult times.
For adults supporting young people, it can be difficult to watch your child encounter difficulties and bewildering to know how to best support them. However, just tentatively starting the conversations with gentle encouragement without pressure or judgment, is a good way to get them to open up and to ask your child directly about how you can best support them and consider with them what options they might like to look at, if further professional support is needed.”
More advice for young people and their parents is available on the Young Minds website at https://www.youngminds.org.uk/. Young people or their families can access professional support via their GP, who will signpost to the range of services available locally.