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Children, youth and seniors

Youth Forum projects

  • Elephant in the Room report

    Our young people continue to engage with decision makers on the Elephant in the Room (EITR) campaign.

    Elephant in the Room (EITR) is a regional youth-led mental health campaign organised by young people from Belfast Youth Forum, NI Youth Forum and Children’s Law Centre. 

    The Belfast Youth Forum, along with Northern Ireland Youth Forum and the Children’s Law Centre, organised an event where over 100 young people expressed their frustrations at the lack of mental health education and support services available in Northern Ireland. They called for the UN’s recommendation to be fully implemented by our government.

    From this, a Youth Mental Health Committee was formed to explore issues connected to mental health and young people, so that as many young people as possible have a meaningful say in shaping the future of mental health education and support services. 

    This research lead to the Elephant in the Room report.

    Aims

    To find out what young people in Northern Ireland thought and knew about mental health, in particular:

    • Where young people get their information about mental health and how do they rate this;
    • Where would young people like to go to receive mental health information and support;
    • How young people view mental health and how does this impact on their ability to speak about it;
    • What actions they think our government should take to promote positive mental health and well-being in society.


    Key findings

    The findings of the research were broken down in to three broad themes:

    Stigma

    • A key issue for young people is that there is little to no positive mental health language.
    • 40% of young people in the survey had negative thoughts when they heard the term mental health.
    • Young people want to talk about mental health, but this negative stigma and the culture of silence is stopping them doing so.
    • Young people told us they aren’t given the space to transform how mental health is talked about and viewed and that this needs to change.

    Safe Spaces

    • 76% of young people in the survey told us that young people are afraid to talk about mental health and a further 86% told us that large numbers of young people don’t know how to talk about mental health.
    • Large numbers of young people in the focus groups also stated that there is a lack of safe spaces to talk about mental health.
    • The overall view from young people was that online was a good platform to access mental health information but there were issues with being able to separate fact from fiction.  This meant that at times, using the internet to get information could make mental health worse for them.

    Schools and information

    • According to the young people the three most common places they would source information about mental health are online (59%), family member (48%) and friends (45%).
    • Young people said the problem is that the quality of this information is inconsistent.
    • In conversations about mental health and school,young people told us that there are some positive examples of mental health education and support for young people in schools, but this is not standard across all schools and that good experiences tended to be because of individual teachers, not the result of a school policy or a common approach tat all schools sign up to.
    • 87% of young people in our survey agreed that mental health issues need to be discussed more in schools and colleges and that mental health education should be embedded in schools via the curriculum – one off lessons won’t work.


    Recommendations

    • Support the creation of a youth-led, government backed mental health campaign, challenging the culture of silence and negative stigma.
    • Work with young people to develop a new and positive language around mental health by creating a ‘mental health dictionary’, which could be used as part of a mental health curriculum programme.
    • Engage with young people to create and fund safe digital solutions to receive mental health information and support.  These digital solutions should be designed by young people for young people.
    • Create a compulsory curriculum programme for all schools and colleges on mental health and wellbeing that helps to raise awareness and challenge stigma and allows young people to access consistent mental health information.  This curriculum programme should be long term and embedded in schools – one off workshops won’t work.
    • Mental health and wellbeing training for all teachers, school support workers and youth workers so that this programme can be delivered effectively.

    To read the report, go to Elephant in the Room

  • Any use? research report

    The Belfast Youth Forum launched their ‘Any Use?’ research report on 21 November 2019 as part of UN World Children’s Day celebration to mark the 30th Anniversary of the UNCRC. The report focuses on young people’s opinions on Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) in Belfast. Our Belfast Youth Forum created the report in partnership with Common Youth and Centre for Children’s Rights QUB.

    The Belfast Youth Forum chose relationship and sexuality education as one of their campaign areas for 2018-2019 because young people has raised it as a key issue through a number of engagement events.

    Key findings

    • One in two young people think their right to RSE is currently not being met
    • 34 per cent of young people who completed the survey had never received a RSE lesson in school
    • Of the young people who did receive RSE, only 10 percent said the information they received was ‘very useful’
    • Despite this, a massive 86 per cent of young people felt school was still the best place to receive RSE
    • Three quarters of young people believed RSE should not be influenced by the ethos or religion of the school
    • The overwhelming majority want it taught by a qualified RSE teacher as part of a curriculum programme
    • The most popular subject young people want to learn about in RSE is ‘personal relationships.’

    Recommendations

    • Adopt a right-based proactive approach to relationship and sexuality education
    • Work with young people to co-produce an RSE curriculum programme for schools
    • A curriculum programme should be taught by specialised, qualified and trained staff.
    • Our young people will now be engaging with decision makers and influencers across Belfast to implement the recommendations in their research report.

    Read the 'Any Use?: Young people’s opinions on Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in Belfast' report. 

  • Poverty: it's not a choice report

    Our young people are raising awareness and are engaging with decision makers and influencers across Belfast to implement the actions for government in their Poverty: it's not a choice report research report.

    Read the 'Poverty: it's not a choice' report.

  • Get in touch

    As a decision maker within our council, we would appreciate any opportunity to meet and discuss our work, especially if it can influence policy and council decisions that impact young people’s lives.

    If you’d ever like to meet some of us for a chat or to find out more about our work, you can contact our Young People Co-ordinator and she will help arrange this. 

    You can contact us by email or call 028 9032 0202.

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