Raising Awareness of Mental Health

Pamela and Leah identified a need for basic psychological and emotional support training for those working with young people, to tackle the lack of understanding of mental health and awareness of local support services.

Pamela and Leah are passionate about ensuring that children and young people have access to mental health services. Leah’s experience working in the UK mental health services has shown her the positive impact that adequate mental health services has on those experiencing trauma. Whilst Pamela’s experience of living in Mozambique and the UK, has shown her how a lack of open discussion can lead to stigma and people not seeking the help they need. They aimed to raise awareness of mental health in children and young people, through workshops focusing on the participant’s perspectives of mental health and removing associated stigmas.

Prior to travelling to South Africa, the pair contacted various organisations providing mental health support, to understand what primary care and support was available. In their first week, they spoke with various schools and organisations working with children and young people, to understand how mental health is viewed in a cultural context of South Africa. They then ran multiple workshops with children and young people, focused on gaining insight into their understanding of mental health, what contributes to a healthy mind and emotions, and discussed coping strategies for more difficult emotions such as sadness, anxiety, and anger.

Their research highlighted a lack of general understanding, with mental health often only connected to psychosis or learning disabilities, and a lack of awareness of local support services. They found that those working with young people also felt they lacked training to confidently provide emotional support. Future projects in this area could focus on the following; basic psychological and emotional support training for teachers and learning support assistants, and the creation of a guide of local support services.

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