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Friday, 21 April 2017

Facebook host ‘Debating Mental Health’ programme finale

Facebook host ‘Debating Mental Health’ programme finale

Young people who have engaged with mental health services have developed debating skills were given the chance to make their voices heard in a public debate finale at London’s Facebook HQ on Tuesday, 11 April.

The winners of the final debate were from Merton and a young person from Sutton was awarded ‘Best Speaker’ at the end of the debate.

South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust has partnered with Children and Young People’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (CYP IAPT), the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and the English-Speaking Union to reach 40 young people across the capital who have had at least one interaction with mental health services.

Dr Diana Cassell, Head of Children’s and Adolescent Mental Health Services  (CAMHS) at South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust said:

‘This initiative represents a new approach in engaging with young people. As well as teaching young people vital communication skills, we believe this programme will boost self-confidence as well as send a positive message that young people do have a voice and of course we hope this course and the final debate event will help reduce the stigma around mental health.

‘We would like to thank everyone involved in this innovative approach, particularly project officer Laura Tyrell whose significant contribution ensured the success of the event.’

Alex Goforth, Programme Lead at London and South East CYPIAPT Collaborative at the Anna Freud National Centre highlighted the partnership working that has been crucial to the success of the programme:

‘It has been a partnership between the Anna Freud National Centre, the English Speaking Union and the CYP IAPT Learning Collaborative which is commissioning the programme as part of its participation/co-production workstream’.

The ‘Debating Mental Health’ programme is a free initiative for young people over 14 years of age who have accessed mental health support to develop debating skills over a 12-week course. The participants joined weekly sessions delivered by English-Speaking Union mentors and developed sharp debating skills through games and interactive sessions. 

The programme formally launched in January this year with an evening debate around the motion: ‘This House Believes That: The future of mental health care for children and young people lies in peer support.’ After sharing their own views, participants were able to watch an exciting live debate delivered by their English Speaking Union mentors.

To mark the end of the inspiring programme, the young people came together with others across London last week to debate mental health topics at Facebook’s Head Quarters in the heart of London’s King’s Cross. Aptly, the final motion they chose to explore was: ‘living in an online world means that there are more pressures than ever on young people’s mental health.’

The finale was attended by key mental health decision makers and guests of the participants to help celebrate the achievements of the young people over the training programme which was marked with a prize-giving and all participants received a surprise pack including free access to the HeadSpace app and other donated surprises from Facebook and partners.

One of the participants – who wished to remain anonymous, but has trained with the Richmond group, a young person involved with the programme, commented:

“Thanks so much for the programme. It's had a great positive impact on my wellbeing, and really given me an interest in debating, as well as a chance to socialise and gain confidence. I'm sure we as young people will keep in touch far beyond this debating group; definitely don't stop here!”.

The finale event has paved the way for honest, open and accountable dialogue between mental health decision makers and the young people who access mental health services and we look forward to developing the programme in future rounds. If young people are interested in becoming involved, please contact: You can find out more about the programme here and follow on Twitter and Facebook


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