Case study: The Power of Youth in Stockton-on-Tees

During the pandemic, 80% of young people identified that their mental health had deteriorated. Many others also suffered from anxiety and stress – meaning they found it hard to cope with months in isolation.

However, one Stockton-based project has been helping local children overcome times of uncertainty by giving them a platform to express their feelings and suggest coping mechanisms while at home.

Bright Minds Big Futures (BMBF), which is managed by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, worked with representatives from Public Health to tackle topics like anxiety and depression, so that the young group could give a professional insight in to how their peers could manage emotional wellbeing.

They also suggested their own ‘top tips’, some of which can be seen in the video below.

Bright Minds Big Futures (BMBF) Mental Health and Well-being Project

We spoke to Community Engagement Officer and Project Lead Sophie Haste, who told us a little more about the inspirational youngsters.

“Since the project started in 2017, we have gone from strength to strength," she said.

“We have a core group of helpers called The Big Committee, who all have their own roles and areas of interest. There’s also additional members who help out at various events.

“All in all, we have over 50 participants. Each one of them bring their own unique skill set, so when we’re all together sharing ideas, it’s a great atmosphere.

“They are all a credit to themselves and should be really proud. Especially during the lockdown period when they were filming video content for other youngsters. As you can see, the messages were really powerful, and we got some great feedback.”
— Sophie Haste, Community Engagement Officer and Project Lead, BMBF

The Big Committee, together with Sophie, attend monthly meetings along with Leader of the Council Bob Cook, Director of Children’s Services Martin Grey and Cabinet member for Children and Young People, Councilor Lisa Evans. This collaborative approach allows them to express their feelings, have their say about issues in the area, and work on upcoming projects together.

The last 12 months has also given the group a chance showcase their talents by working with local organisations and helping out in the community.

They organised activity packs for the elderly and vulnerable at Christmas time, and have helped with outdoor projects at St Michael’s church in Norton, and with local environmental organisation, Cultivate Tees Valley  –  during which they appeared on Blue Peter.

“The last year hasn’t been ideal but we’ve kept in constant contact and the members are all doing well", said Sophie.

“We’ve worked to ensure the children participate in as much activity and discussion as possible too. They have all done some great work in highlighting how to overcome mental health issues, and I’m really proud of them.

“As we follow the government roadmap, things will start to happen again. Hopefully we’ll be at Stockton International Riverside Festival (SIRF), we plan to host our own music gig and we’ll also be bringing out a newsletter… among other things.”

The initiative has also had admiration from various other council departments too.

They see the project as an important and insightful way of receiving information from younger people, in order to understand the viewpoints of upcoming generations, and Sophie couldn’t be happier.

“Other council services are coming to us for opinions, so you can really tell that the project is working. They respect the members and take their thoughts in to consideration.

“It’s really important that they have their say about our area and that they are involved in influencing decisions and suggesting new approaches.

“We hope to continue on this road to success with more and more young people joining the group. We’re always looking for dynamic and enthusiastic people to join us, so if you’d like to help, please get in touch.”

If you’d like to take part in the project or become a member of The Big Committee, email sophie.haste@stockton.gov.uk with your name, age, and phone number.

You should also give some insight as to why you’d like to become part of the volunteer team and share some of your interests/hobbies. (Note: you must be a resident of Stockton to take part).

The Big Committee is open for boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 18, and those with additional needs can take part up to the age of 25.

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