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Young people from Harrow share their experiences of overcoming mental health challenges at Barnardo’s conference

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5 July 2019

Young people from Harrow have bravely shared their experiences of overcoming mental health challenges to a packed audience of 130 professionals at a Barnardo’s conference in North London.

Four young people from Harrow Horizons, a service run by Barnardo’s and commissioned by NHS Harrow CCG and Harrow Council, took part in the Barnardo’s Children and Young People’s Mental Health Conference at London Metropolitan University on Tuesday 2 July.

Shannon Thompson, 11, from Harrow, who was previously supported by Harrow Horizons after receiving racist, homophobic and transphobic bullying at school, was among several young people who gave powerful speeches at the start of the conference and took part in a Q&A panel in the afternoon.   

Shannon said: “I was really nervous as I’ve never spoken about myself in front of people before, but I think when I spoke about my experiences, it would have been helpful to some of the people in the room. I think the conference was really useful because things are different now for young people as there are a lot of different ways for children to express hate for other children. I think it’s useful that adults can learn things from the conference.”    

Throughout the day young people gave their suggestions to children’s services professionals about how youth mental health services could be improved and three young people from Harrow Horizons’ participation group were joined by Kiran Dhillon, 26, from Ilford, who grew up in care and whose two brothers have been supported by Barnardo’s Redbridge Leaving Care service, run in partnership with Redbridge Council. The young people co-hosted the conference with Barnardo’s London Director Lynn Gradwell and also chaired several roundtable discussions.  

Guests at the conference looked at a range of subjects including the stigma associated with mental health, the emerging and hidden issues that exist for undocumented children, young people and families in London, and the emotional impact of the internet and social media on young people’s e-lives.

Angela Baird, 18, who is part of Harrow Horizons’ participation group, said: “I think the conference was a really good opportunity for different professionals to learn about the issues affecting young people, and especially in regards to social media. I feel there is quite a generational divide on that at the moment and I don’t think that many adults really understand social media like young people do.”     

Lynn Gradwell, Director for Barnardo’s in London, said: “We are so grateful to our amazing young people who did such a brilliant job of co-hosting our first Children and Young People’s Mental Health Conference and who bravely shared their experiences of overcoming mental health challenges so eloquently, sensitively and with a clear passion and sense of wanting to help other children and young people.

“Our conference was co-designed by our young people and their invaluable contributions along with our insightful guest speakers to learn together which will help improve the way we work collaboratively to improve the delivery of mental health services for children and young people in London.” 

Dr Genevieve Small, Chair of Harrow CCG said: “It’s important that children and young people talk about their mental health and any issues they are facing. Thank you to all our fantastic speakers from Harrow Horizons who spoke about their own mental health challenges that they have experienced in their daily lives.  

“Harrow Horizons provides confidential support for children and young people who need it most, and continues to make a valuable contribution to improving mental health in our borough.”​

Children’s services professionals who gave presentations at the conference included, Laura Falconer, Assistant Director for Impact, Mental Health and Well-being, Barnardo’s UK, Priya Ganatra, People Services Commissioner at Harrow Council, Dan Burke, CEO at Young Harrow Foundation, Dr Natius Oelofsen, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Director, Nick Podd, Director of Cyber Security and Cyber Stalking Specialist at Veritas, Siân Thomas, Lecturer in Social Work at University of Birmingham, Andy Jolly, Research Associate at the University of Wolverhampton’s Institute for Community Research and Development, and Tracy Jarvis, Director of Psychotherapy Excellence.

Barnardo’s has a long history of supporting vulnerable children, young people and families, with mental health and well-being threading through all its work. In 2016/17 the charity worked with 21,100 children and young people within its commissioned mental health and well-being services such as counselling, bereavement support, therapeutic support, and school-based social and emotional learning programmes.

Harrow Horizons: Harrow Horizons works with children and young people aged 0 to 18, and young people with special educational needs and disabilities up to the age of 25 alongside their families. It is run by qualified clinicians, experienced practitioners and volunteers, providing confidential, focused, targeted support for those who need it most. 

Referrals can be made by email, phone and face to face from young people themselves, parents/carers and professionals, including GPs and those working in schools, social care and the voluntary sector. 

For more information please visit www.barnardos.org.uk/harrowhorizons, call 020 8427 1322 or email harrowhorizons@barnardos.org.uk Alternatively drop in to Harrow Horizons at The 21 Building, 21 Pinner Road, Harrow, HA1 4ES.