Youth Participation at IAYMH2017

October 20th 2017

Youth Participation at IAYMH2017

On the 24th of September 2017 one of Jigsaw Dublin City’s Youth Advisory Panel Volunteers, Marina, participated in the International Association for Youth Mental Health Conference held in Dublin. The conference brought together leaders from around the world who are dedicated to creating positive change in youth mental health. At the core of that change is young people and here is a blog created by Marina on her experiences and learnings from the conference. 

It’s been a few weeks since IAYMH 2017 came to an end, however, what the days entailed is still freshly circulating around my head. The energy surrounding the event continues to keep its hold on me, and the atmosphere and people there were nothing short of inspiring and exciting. There were so many important and noteworthy things said, and influences and moments I would like to put on paper and remember, but in being so busy, both literally and in all the thoughts it provoked, all I can say is that it was amazing.

As the youngest delegate there, seeing so many different types of people come together on an international level to continue pushing for conversations and awareness surrounding youth mental health was hugely hopeful. Everybody, although from a vast range of backgrounds, whether clinical or academic, advocacy or community-based, stood for and believed in the same thing, showing how youth mental health can’t be ignored, suggesting many good things for the future. Witnessing, for example, anecdotal and scientific evidence mirror each other exactly, brought to the fore how universal attitudes towards youth mental health could become. Even when more serious issues were discussed, the approach towards the subject remained positive, which I think highlights what this should all revolve around – youth mental health should be prioritised and deemed as of the utmost value, but stigma and shame needs to be removed simultaneously. All of this needs to be done actively, and the conference showed me how nobody ought to be complacent, but everybody can play their part in making a difference.

The conference gave me the opportunity to meet other young people who were passionate about youth mental health, and hearing about what they were doing in their countries and communities was incredible. This showed me the potential for not only individuals to make change, but in general, the impact that young people can have. In being the youngest person there, I quickly found myself looking up to a lot of the other delegates, and much as throwing out phrases like, “it changed me”, may sound clichéd, IAYMH was definitely pivotal in letting me recognise what I want to do with my life. A refreshing and invigorating event, it had a huge impact on me which will certainly stay with me for a long time. I’m still in touch with some of the people I got the privilege to meet, and I look forward to getting to know them more, even if continents apart. My dream, would be to one day have a reason to go back to another future conference, for whatever reason that may be.

Ultimately, I think that if our whole society adopted and reflected the perspectives I got to experience throughout those few days in September, we would be most of the way there in terms of changing how youth mental health is viewed.

Thank you to IAYMH for giving me the opportunity to attend, and to both those behind the conference, and to those presenting and attending for making it what it was.

(Graphics created by Youth and Community Engagement Worker, Anthony Burrowes)