A new campaign is being launched to encourage young people in Hertfordshire to ‘Just Talk’ about their mental health.
With one in 10 children aged 5 to 16 having a significant mental health problem and 21 per cent of boys in Hertfordshire unable to identify healthy coping strategies when things are worrying them, helping young people to open up and get support is vital.
Richard Roberts, Hertfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, explained: “Many young people fear judgement and embarrassment if they talk about mental health problems, but the fact is we all have mental health, like we have physical health. Through our ‘Just Talk’ campaign, we want young people, especially boys and young men, to know that it’s OK to not be OK and that sharing a problem with someone they trust is the first step to feeling better.”
Health, council and voluntary organisations from across Hertfordshire are working together to promote Just Talk, led by Hertfordshire County Council Public Health, with input from the national Time to Change mental health campaign, NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, YC Hertfordshire, local charities and Watford Football Club.
During the Just Talk launch week, schools are holding special assemblies aiming to normalise conversations about mental health. They will also be running Just Talk lessons and inviting guest speakers in to share the Just Talk message.
“Young people have advised on the direction of the campaign from the start, helping to choose the Just Talk name and design the logo,” said Maria Nastri, child and adolescent mental health services transformation manager at Hertfordshire’s two NHS clinical commissioning groups. “We hope everyone will get involved and spread the word about Just Talk because there is support out there and it can really help.”
National mental health campaigners Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn, known as the Strangers on the Bridge after Neil stopped and talked to Jonny when he was on the brink of taking his own life, were among the first to have backed Just Talk, as well as two Arsenal under-23 players and Watford FC squad members.
“The first time that I talked was actually to Neil really, when I was on a bridge and I wasn’t well and I was suicidal so that was the first time that I opened up,” said Jonny. “I would encourage anyone that’s struggling to Just Talk and I really get behind this because talking has been the best thing that I’ve ever done, it’s been the most important thing that I’ve ever done and I wish that I’d talked earlier.”
Neil added: “We’re supporting the campaign Just Talk, about somebody being able to say what’s on their mind, and know that it’s OK to not be OK.”
You can see them talking here.
Local and national research and data back the need for a focus on emotional wellbeing and mental health of boys and young men, encouraging them to open up and get support with their mental health if needed. An emotional wellbeing survey conducted in Hertfordshire last July showed that boys are more likely to say that they would ‘do nothing’ if they had a mental health issue. They also told us that they would like to talk more about mental health but are afraid of judgement or not being taken seriously.
And Time to Change research revealed that half (49%) of teenage boys in the UK would not feel comfortable talking to their dads about their mental health, including stress, anxiety and depression. When asked why, more than a third said it was because their dad doesn’t talk about his feelings and 31% said they wouldn’t want to burden them.
Hertfordshire’s plan to improve emotional wellbeing services for children and young people received £2m national funding. One of the transformation plan’s priorities is to focus on prevention and early intervention, giving children and young people good emotional and wellbeing support. You can read Hertfordshire’s Transformation Plan for Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing 2015-20 here.