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The power of sharing personal experiences

Young Minds is the voice of young people's mental health and well-being in the U.K. The organization was awarded a 2016 MissionBox Philanthropic Fund "Share With the Nonprofit World" grant.

Here, MissionBox Vice President of Partnerships and Community Engagement Mila Amundson talks with Young Minds Media and Campaigns Manager Nick Harrop about the organization's mission and strategies.

Young Minds champions mental health and creates change so that young people can cope with adversity and find help when they need it. What strategies do you use to achieve this mission?

We're a campaigning organization. We campaign to raise awareness and break down the stigma associated with mental health, to prevent mental health issues from developing in the first place, and to improve the mental health services offered to young people.

For example, we run campaigns about issues such as self-harm, mental health medications and bullying. We mobilize young people to spread the word about mental health — giving talks in schools and at conferences about what it's like to be a young person with a mental health condition. We also provide training and consultancy services to teachers, doctors and other professionals on specific aspects of child and adolescent mental health.

What type of support does Young Minds offer directly to young people and their parents?

Our website is full of information and tips to help young people understand how to look after themselves and what to do if they're struggling with mental health. If you've been prescribed a mental health medication, for example, you can find out what effect it'll have and learn from the experiences of other young people who've taken the same medication.

Parents may use our website as well as the parent helpline, which offers free, confidential telephone and email support to any adult worried about a young person's well-being. For example, parents who realize their child is self-harming might not know what to say or do or what type of help is available. They can call the helpline to talk about what's happening and get much-needed advice and support.

Here are a few examples of our brochures, customized for the intended audience — young people, parents or professionals.

Self-harm: Young people

Self-harm: Parents

Self-harm: Professionals

Young Minds has a strong outreach component, using the voices and firsthand experiences of young people to educate others. Would you tell us more about your approach?

We have a large group of young activists — young people who've been there, who've had mental health concerns themselves and now want to help other young people. We work with them to create videos or advice packs based on their own experiences. Often, the advice is don't suffer in silence. Talk to someone about how you're feeling.

We also rely on our young activists to design social media campaigns that appeal to young people. These campaigns take the form of tips, advice, animations, videos and blogs about their own experiences. What's so powerful is the fact that young people who've been there are talking to their peers in the language they understand through the media they prefer.

It's also empowering for our young activists to be such a critical part of the movement. They meet politicians and describe the reality of what it's like to have a mental health condition and struggle to find help. These conversations are shaping policies and making a real difference.

How do you measure your organization's impact?

We measure our impact by looking at how many lives we touch — how many parents we support through the helpline, how many people attend our training sessions, how many people we reach through our campaigns and social media efforts. The growing number of likes, chats and responses on Facebook and Twitter confirm that we're making a difference.

On the legislative side, we can measure our impact even more directly. Thanks to our campaigning efforts, the government announced an investment of an extra £1.4 billion in young people's mental health. That's just fantastic, of course. It's also a credit to all the young people who've pointed out how poor mental health services can be and how the services can be improved.

What advice would you give to others who are trying to make an impact in mental health services for young people?

Above all, I think it's crucial to involve young people who've experienced mental health concerns. It's one thing to have psychiatrists and other mental health experts giving advice. It's something else to hear from the young people themselves — and that's what Young Minds is all about.

Know another visionary leader or organization working for social good? Let us know! Email editorial@missionbox.com.

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