“The most effective way to achieve the solution to this problem is to hear the voice of those directly affected, the youth. The [Our Minds Our Future] campaign is incredible because it is the voice of us, the young people, the experts of our time.”
- S, Rights Advocate with Our Minds Our Future
Right now, 16-25-year-olds are the worst served group by the mental health system. Young people face a postcode lottery of services, long waiting lists and a no man’s land between child and adult care – and the problem is getting worse. Even so, current government ambitions to improve care would still leave two in three young people going without the mental health support they need.
This just isn’t good enough and young people know it. They have had enough of hand-wringing and empty promises from decision-makers, and instead are taking the issue into their own hands.
That’s where Our Minds Our Future comes in – a national, youth-led campaign working towards creating a mental health system that has young people at its heart and delivers person-centred care.
Committing to co-design
The campaign has been spearheaded by a 10-strong steering group, recruited as part of Youth Access’ Make Our Rights Reality project. Using their lived experience of mental health problems and health services, they co-designed the campaign from start to finish. Their involvement has been supported by training from external partners including the British Institute of Human Rights, Debating Mental Health and expert campaign strategists.
Our young steering group wanted to see a system tailored to meet the specific needs of 16-25-year-olds, that treats young people as equal partners in decision-making and respects their mental health rights.
They also wanted the campaign to be bigger than them, extending to become a national movement of young people known as ‘Rights Advocates’ who are equipped with the right tools to make the case for change locally.
We worked to help make their vision a reality. Working with the steering group, Youth Access has recruited, inducted and provided skills training to a growing network of Rights Advocates who have led local grassroots actions up and down the country, including hosting an Art Activism event, speaking in schools, meeting key MPs and writing blogs.
A rights-based approach
Their latest collective action is the #MyRightsMyMind petition, which calls on decision-makers to pledge to take a ‘rights-based approach’ to mental healthcare, based on principles laid out in international human rights agreements. We already have support from high profile figures from across the political spectrum and the human rights sector, as well as hundreds of signatures.
Co-producing a campaign with young people has been one of the most rewarding projects we have embarked on as an organisation, although not without its challenges. We are constantly learning, most of all from the passion, drive and expertise of the young people we work with.
Previous campaigns have done much to move society far from the put-up-and-shut-up attitudes of former decades, and mental health is now well and truly on the agenda. But with support still woefully inadequate for the young, we believe a new approach is needed.
We need a genuine youth-led movement to break through the status quo and build a better system from the ground up – one that addresses the root causes of the mental health crisis, not just its symptoms.
Join young people taking a stand for #MyRightsMyMind, by signing the petition calling on decision-makers to take a rights-based approach to mental healthcare.