On Friday 20th January Debating Mental Health was launched at an open event held at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families.
The evening centred on a show debate, performed by English-Speaking Union mentors, who deliver training to young people participating in the programme. The debate was titled ‘This House Believes: That the future of mental health care for children and young people lies in peer support.’ Arguments made in favour of the motion highlighted that many young people currently don’t access NHS-provided mental health services, as they have an ‘institutional’, rather than friendly face. The proposition also highlighted research that shows offering peer support results in lower readmission rates amongst young people struggling with their mental health. The opposition contested that rather than offer a helpful alternative, peer support encourages a dangerous reliance on peer groups, instead of encouraging the development of new, helpful coping mechanisms. They also said that peer support structures do not offer the same safeguards as more traditional therapeutic methods.
Questions from the floor then followed and several participants on the programme stood to offer questions to the speakers, or to contribute with examples from their own experience. Following an audience vote, in which the audience were asked to consider the strength of the debate cases before them, the opposition team were voted the winners of the debate.
After the debate, the mentors led delegates in an activity used in training sessions on the programme, which was followed by informal networking, nibbles and drinks.