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We’re back!

Hi Everyone!

We’ve had some time out here at #DebatingMH, to sort a few things (including our own mental health) out.  We’re now back and ready to make things happen!

While we’re doing some work in the background, we thought you might be interested to read some of the comments we received after Round 1 of the programme!

Taking part in the ESU debating course was an extraordinary experience.  By taking on this unique opportunity I’ve done things I didn’t imagine myself to be capable of doing and it has definitely taught me a lot of things about myself.  This course has given me the ability to see what I am capable of when I am taken out of my comfort zone. Being someone that is inherently shy and reluctant to talk I have had to make new friends, speak by myself in front of people and deliver clear speeches and every week I noticed these skills getting better; therefore one of the main highlights I have is the week on week improvement that I could see in myself.  Another obvious highlight was participating in and winning the debate final, the fact that I even participated in this is something I probably could never have imagined some months ago because speaking in front of people (particularly people I don’t know) is something I find very challenging. This process has been extremely positive for me and has given me essential skills that I can take with me through life and has inspired me to continue to put myself forward for these kind of activities; I honestly don’t have anything negative to say about it.”-Eric, participant

“Thanks so much for the programme. It’s had a great positive impact on my wellbeing, and really given me an interest in debating, as well as a chance to socialise and gain confidence 🙂 I’m sure we as young people will keep in touch far beyond this debating group; definitely don’t stop here!”-J, participant

“It was wonderful to see the group articulately expressing their views in front of others [public speaking]. They were also able to construct their views in a formulated way [using techniques taught] to speak confidently. For members that didn’t participate in the final, they benefitted from being part of the group and supporting their peers which was also an achievement.”-M, supporting NHS participation officer

What’s it all about?

Participant Holly shares her experiences of ‘Debating Mental Health’.

I’m Holly and I am 14 years old. So far so normal. Wrong. I have a condition called autism which makes me see the world quite differently. I am not blind, I just find social situations quite difficult and find it hard to see what people mean when they chat. Over the past five months, I have been part of a programme called Debating Mental Health which has helped me in lots of ways.

Before my first session I had very low self esteem and didn’t feel confident speaking up for myself. I was anxious about going along as I thought that everyone there would be cleverer and better communicators than me. But as soon as I got there I realised I was wrong. I felt that I could be myself and I wasn’t going to be judged. And there were lots of other people who were just like me and who I now count as friends. This is a big deal for me as I find it really hard to make friends because I don’t really know how to have a conversation and I feel really awkward around people my age.

I’ve also learnt a lot. Debating involves a format where you structure the topics you want to talk about. This has helped me a lot at school as I find essays very hard to write. I normally answer a question in a few sentences and struggle to think of what else to say. Learning how to debate has shown me how to structure arguments and this has helped me in a lot of of my subjects at school as my exam questions have a similar format.

One of my favourite things is the game where you choose a side on a certain topic and walk to opposite sides of the room depending on where you ‘stand’. You then have to explain why you chose this position. You can talk for hours on end about the topic and really get into it!

I feel much more confident in myself as I now see that I don’t have to keep quiet about my opinion on things I can say whatever I like and it won’t be silly or stupid because in debating there is no right or a wrong answer. You have no reason to feel bad about what you say.

Even though I find it hard to talk to people on an individual level, I can talk to an audience much more easily as I don’t have to make eye contact or understadn when I’m supposed to speak. l go to a mainstream school with an autism unit and I give regular talks about autism to year groups and teachers so they can better understand who we are.

I have found the course very helpful in improving the format of my talks and helping me to speak as engagingly as possible. I also try and incorporate comedy and try and relate to the audience. For a younger audience, I will talk in less detail with more visual props, for an older audience I talk about how autism affects me and how they can help me. I loved getting the applause at the end of my first talk, the teachers said it was very impressive and they couldn’t have done it and it was a defining moment in my life.

Debating has opened up the opportunity to see what people really think about mental health and not just what a doctor or psychologist says. It’s good to know that I’m not alone and that other people are in the same situation and it’s OK to talk about it. I now feel I can be myself and that’s OK because at the end of the day it is OK to be different.

I would like to thank Facebook & the ESU for picking up on the topic of mental health as it is a very important topic and I am glad that they have recognised this. I would also like to thank CAMHS in South London as without them I wouldn’t be the bright bubbly amazing person you see before you today !

To anyone with a mental health issue, stay strong you are what you are and you don’t need to change for the world,  well I wouldn’t anyway.

Debating Mental Health Launch Event, held 20th January

IMG_20170131_154902.jpgOn 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.