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Young voices are where they should be. At the heart of BrainWaves

For Children's Mental Health Week, Prof. John Gallacher writes about our focus on teenage voices and why they are crucial to BrainWaves. 

I was delighted to discover the theme for Children’s Mental Health Week this year – My Voice Matters. It echoes much of what our BrainWaves programme is seeking to do. At its simplest, BrainWaves is giving young people a voice: listening to young people to understand their experiences around mental health, and then developing solutions to help them.

Our approach is evidence-based: we ask young people what matters to them, understand why, and then develop and evaluate solutions. This year we are launching one of the largest long-term studies of teenage mental health, and I’m so excited to think that through this thousands of young people’s voices will be heard. And what these young people tell us will not just give them a voice now, it will directly contribute to shaping our approach to wellbeing and mental health in schools and colleges for years to come.

This matters because I’ve seen a rise in mental health disorders amongst young people. I have watched as mental illnesses spiked in the last decade, with young people being particularly affected. It’s deeply disturbing that mental health disorders are increasing quickest in young people (13 – 24 year-olds). I believe we must do something, or the crisis will worsen. That’s what BrainWaves is going to do: make that positive change.

An emphasis on hearing young voices is embedded throughout our work here at BrainWaves:

  • We’re building students’ communication skills, so they have the capability to be heard in classrooms.
  • We’re helping teachers develop their listening and interviewing skills to be able to support students’ mental health in a more meaningful way.
  • We’re developing a curriculum of wellbeing lessons for students aged 11-18 years, which are constantly being evaluated by students in the classroom.
  • And all of our work is evaluated by our Young People’s Advisory Group and our Youth Advisors to ensure we’re in tune with the mindsets of young people.

Young voices are at the heart of what we do, and our long-term study is testament to that. I hope you will join us in supporting Children’s Mental Health Week and let’s work together to make a positive difference to the lives of our young people. If we do actively listen to young people, we can surely empower them to thrive.