SSLP Conference: Focus on Mental Health

I attended the SSLP Mental Health conference with Xavi and Esme from my year. When we arrived, we chose our seats and began to look at the programmes and filled in a survey. There were lots of children from different schools speaking and it felt like a very open and welcoming space, despite the fact that it was an event we’d never been to before.  

There were three talks from different specialists, all with different backgrounds within mental health and psychology. One of them focused mostly on what actually happens in your brain (chemically) as a teenager and how that affects you. I feel like this more scientific approach showed that many things we might feel as teenagers are completely common and should be understood. 

Another person who works for the NHS talked about different things you can do to help yourself when you are feeling certain ways, such as anxious, and where these emotions come from. I didn’t find this talk the most interesting of the three, as it was mainly things we have been told before. 

The final person had a completely different approach, with a focus on generational trauma and how different experiences can affect you in the future, and about preserving your inner self, not letting it be crushed. They also talked about their experience with internalised racism and the experiences of black youth, which I think was interesting and should be discussed.

There was a panel at the end where all the specialists answered any of our questions, and I really appreciated how they didn’t gloss over what anybody said and told us what they know and think.  

Afterwards there was a workshop in groups of around four schools. We discussed social action, and we talked about what we thought schools can do regarding students’ mental health. We had guidance from the workshop-leaders but it was mostly up to us. We talked about the practicality of actions compared to how effective they would be and what we thought would be most beneficial in our community. Then, we began to make plans for our own schools, which we will carry out and we will also stay in touch with the other schools.

I think it was a good opportunity to meet children from schools in our area and talk to each other about our ideas and shared experiences, as well as to promote change in our close community, when we do continue with our plan.  

“I found the conference motivating as it showed that the institutions and pupils care about student mental health, and revealed the reasons behind actions I couldn’t explain.” Xavi, Year 10