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Letter: "As young people we have the power to make a positive change"

On Monday, January 25, 2021, a group of passionate young students from the Peterborough Citizens Young People Action Team gathered on Zoom to host a Mental Health Summit, with guests Kathryn Goose (from the CCG) and MP Paul Bristow; with the aim to better the mental health of young people in Peterborough. 
Aerial review 22
Peterborough from above. Photo: Terry Harris

This summit was a result of several meetings between schools in the city, since early November, who carried out various research and listening to enable us to create powerful testimonies. As young people we have the power to make a positive change in our city with the help from Dilraj Kaur, from Citizens UK, and Timothy Hall from UCP, who helped us reach the necessary people to amplify our suggestions and findings.

The meeting gave a powerful insight into the lives of those with a mental health disorder and the struggles they face to get the help they deserve. Listening to testimonies from students revealed the harsh truth of waiting times, accessibility, referral processes and the effects of Covid-19 on young people’s mental health.

A pupil from OBA spoke about his struggles with his own mental health and how the long waiting lists were detrimental towards his mental health, making him “doubt whether [his] issues were severe enough” and made him unsure if he should seek help at all. 

The next testimony was from a pupil at TDA who addressed the lack of awareness of mental health services. He had put together a survey and found that over 50% of the people who responded were not confident in knowing where to go to get the help they were looking for. The pupil was open to say that the reason he felt so strongly about this topic was because he had “struggled with supporting friends in the past”. 

Following this a student from The Peterborough School shared a testimony from a 14-year-old pupil who struggled with the referrals process, finding it very “overwhelming”, and that their concerns were not listened to as their appointment was more tailored towards her parents than the young person themselves. The pupil then added that they believed “the whole system needed to be reviewed”. 

Finally, a student from The Kings School created a student survey in her school addressing young people’s concerns surrounding Covid-19. The survey showed that since the Coronavirus Pandemic the amount of people you said they were currently suffering from a mental health disorder went from 15.6% to 43.7%. She also voiced the joint sense of “hopelessness” that was found in the survey. 

Two students, one from TDA and one from The Peterborough School, then presented the research that had been done in preparation for this summit. They mentioned how despite the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG being one of the largest in the country, it is also one of the least well-funded.

Resulting in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough being in one of the top 12 worst performing areas in the country. It was also raised that the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough waiting time was 44.6% higher than the national average. Furthermore, showing that our area is in desperate need for help. 

Following the students opening the floor for a question and answers session with questions aimed towards both the CCG and the MP, it was concluded that we would get together a group of pupils to work with Kathryn and the CCG to aid her with what the city needs from a young person’s perspective. Another outcome of the summit was the proposal for another group of students to work on a selection of prominent questions they would like MP Paul Bristow to raise in the House of Commons, to impact students on a more country wide basis.  

We thank all those who have been involved both in the preparation and the delivery of the summit itself; with an attendance off 41 people, 5 Peterborough Schools, the CCG and MP Paul Bristow.