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This Children’s Mental Health Week, we’re pinning back our ears

The theme of Children’s Mental Health Week is: “My voice matters.” Here at The Hive, we believe listening to young people allows them that voice, says our CEO Jayne Wilson.


Place2Be, the charity which coordinates this annual campaign, shares some of the statistics which underpin the need for focus on these issues:

  • One in five children have a probable mental health condition
  • Half of people who have lifelong mental health challenges first experience symptoms by the age of 14.

And for many young people, the roots of this lie in their early experiences: take a look at Wirral’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, and you’ll see that significantly more young people here are growing up in poverty, with all of the subsequent impacts of deprivation which impact their lives.

Add in the legacy of the pandemic, particularly for some of the age groups which were at transitional points in their schooling during lockdown, and we have a generation of young people with uncharted mental health challenges and experiences. As we all know from the headlines, this has implications for over-stretched health services: in a recent report by the Children’s Commissioner, Wirral was among the areas with the largest increases in the proportion of children whose referrals were closed before accessing CYPMHS for treatment in 2021-22 – a 25 percentage point increase on the previous year. Wirral continues to trend at above the national averagefor admissions to hospital for young people related to mental health, self-harm, alcohol and substance misuse.

We’re also seeing the impact of this in school attendance. Persistent absence(pupils missing more than 10% of their school days) in Wirral’s primary and secondary schools is now running at 18.6% and 27.3% respectively.

All of this is where youth work – like the work we do here at The Hive, with partners, out in the community and through schools across the peninsula – has a specific role to play in supporting young people’s mental health, and in equipping young people with the skills and resilience they need to protect their wellbeing as they navigate into early adulthood.

Our young members shape our work; the activities we engage young people in are uniquely able to tap into their interests and reflect the things which are important to them in their lives. And that youth leadership is what creates a different space for mental health conversations and skills here. Last year, The Hive’s work helped more than 70 young people back into learning and worked with more than 200 young people on our wellbeing projects. And during the daytime, our building hosts a range of organisations and services helping young people to move back into education, training and jobs by providing the support they need to overcome barriers – which we know is often the jumping-off point for better mental health and wellbeing.

In a recent session at The Hive on challenges young people see in 2024 and potential solutions they’d explore, young people talked about topics including:

  • “Not being able to rely on people/people letting us down”
  • “School teaching how it wants to teach, not how we want to learn”
  • Bullying
  • Online security and harassment
  • Peer pressure
  • Being yourself and expressing yourself.

We’re now starting to look at projects and sessions where we can support young people around these issues.

One of our young ambassadors is currently running to be Wirral’s UK Youth Parliament representative, and has a manifesto which focuses on mental health. It’s all a fascinating insight into some of the issues which are front of mind for young people when it comes to mental health .

Young people’s voices really do matter this week. In the conversation about their mental health, they are our starting point. But here at The Hive, what we think matters even more is that we listen.

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