Mental illness affects about one in four people: that means six pupils in a class of 24. And yet young people, who often cannot access the right help, can be told that they are little more than “upset”, that they need to get out more. This year the UK Youth Parliament takes up their cause in a new campaign

ne Friday early last month, I spent the day sitting in the House of Commons debating. I am 14 and the elected member of the UK Youth Parliament for South Oxfordshire. Once a year we host our own debates in the hallowed chambers. It is always an interesting day with many good points brought up. After a day of debating five topics, we then leave the chamber to vote. By 4pm we find out what our campaigns are for the next year. This year, the national campaign is tackling racism and religious discrimination; the campaign for England is mental health.

Before the House of Commons sitting, the UK Youth Parliament held the “Make Your Mark” campaign to decide what should be debated within the chamber.

More than 967,000 votes were received with mental health receiving about 30 per cent more votes than any of the other campaigns on the list. Young people understand that it is still a big deal and they believe it should be the UKYP’s campaign for England.

Young people need to feel comfortable talking about mental health

One in four people will have mental health issues, which means six pupils in a class of 24. But it affects people on a much wider scale; six families are affected, too. This then goes on to affect the community. If the NHS were to allow more money for mental health support, then it would not only help the person directly affected but also family, friends and the community. Mental health is like the pebble in the pond and the ripples extend a long way. It’s essential that mental health support, especially for young people, remains a priority.

In many schools, there is a waiting list for helping services. Some of the members of Youth Parliament even said that they were told that they were “just upset” and that they would “get better”. Some were told they should “go out more”! This is not what the schools should be doing or saying. Young people need to be given support and professional advice.

Mental health issues can develop at any time, any day, to anyone. Young people, even as young as nine, can suffer.

Do nine-year-olds really understand what is happening to them? Although you can’t see a mental illness, it doesn’t mean that it is any less important than a physical illness.

“We need to show young people that we are here, we are listening. This campaign affects everyone. Everyone has mental health. Let’s stand up for mental health illnesses. Let’s stand up for emotional wellbeing. Let’s stand up and show young people, not only how to fight for their jobs when they’re older or fight to get heard but let’s show young people the value of living.” This quote, from a London MYP during the debate, sums up what is needed; what the Youth Parliament needs to fight for. The voices of all young people in this country matter and we are here to hear them and act on them.

We need to make sure that young people feel comfortable talking about mental health with their family, friends and experts. We need to make sure that people never have to know the pain of being made fun of for having a mental health illness. We need to make sure that these people, every one in four of us, wake up every morning knowing how to deal with their obstacles.

The UK Youth Parliament believes that all pupils should learn at school about common mental health issues and that negative stereotypes should be challenged. The stigmatisation of mental health issues has lasted too long. Too many people get hurt. It needs to be challenged and that is what UKYP plans to do.