Children’s Mental Health Week 2023, 6 – 12 February, is all about making a difference to the lives of children and young people across the UK. The awareness week is organised and promoted by the charity Place2Be. The theme this year is “Let’s Connect.”
Today, as part of our week-long celebration of Children’s Mental Health Week, we are pleased to introduce a young guest author. Ffion is a member of the Junior Start Well Board* in Powys, and writes about her life as a young person here in Mid Wales.
Life is a cage, which constantly suffocates me. The labels have become a cage – student, carer, daughter, sister, anxiety, traumatised, sad, lonely, different. But when I read I am transported, it’s like the key to my cage. I feel free. It’s my lifeline, I relate to aspects of characters and their stories so, if even for a moment, I feel less alone. Less Different. I feel valid.
“I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren’t all that different.”
Veronica Roth, Divergent.
This empowers me. It reassures me that even if I’m not the bravest, I am scared of spiders and I am too scared to stand up for myself, I have to be selfless because of being a Carer. Despite never being put first or me putting myself first, it gives my life meaning and purpose. I feel less alone, more normal. I feel kind, empathetic and selfless – which makes me brave. Less alone. I feel invincible.
“As long as you can find yourself, you’ll never starve.”
Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games.
This resonated with me the first time I read it. Then the second. Third. Fourth. And countless other times. Life is miserable. It’s a fact of life I have experienced more than some. But in life, there’s beauty in doing what you love, and in finding what you love you can find yourself. Being yourself is one of the greatest joys in life, and it gives me joy. It’s how I’ve tried to live my life for the past three years while picking my GCSEs, A Levels and I hope while going to university. It makes me feel mature. Less inferior. I feel wise.
“I told you to hide your heart once. You should have listened.”
Victoria Aveyard, Red Queen.
I’ve been hurt. More times than I can count. And every time a similar thought goes through my head. Then, I think back to this book and how when Mare opens up her heart to others, she finds her power. That’s why I will never stop. I will cry with others, I will love others, and I will trust others with my heart. Closing off my heart would make me cold, unfeeling and I can’t imagine life that way. Part of who I am is my empathy, my kindness and my generosity. By reaching out to those around me, I have stronger relationships, and I feel less lonely. I feel loved.
“It’s always the fear of looking stupid that stops you from being awesome.”
Kiera Cass, The Selection.
Part of my anxiety is the constant fear of everything going wrong around people and being laughed at and mocked. I lacked confidence. In high school, it meant that I feared a misstep so I stayed quiet, and didn’t speak out. I felt oppressed by my anxiety and lack of confidence. But when I went into sixth form, instead of a year group of 140 people, it was 20. And the smaller group meant that I became less scared. I gradually built up my confidence and I applied for head girl. In high school, I would never have dreamed of doing anything like that out of fear of failure. But failure is how you grow and learn. I learned to face my fear so I feel less afraid. I feel confident.
The connections I feel to these books, these characters, these storylines have helped me grow as a person. I’ve learned to respect my differences, and they are actually what makes me stronger. I’ve learned that fear is a tool, and using it will open doors and help me get places. I’ve learned that empathy and kindness isn’t a weakness, you have to lose some things to help you find better ones. Life is a cage, which constantly suffocates me. My key was reading, it has helped me deal with the pressure and changed my life for the better.
*Junior Start Well Board is a group of young people aged 11 – 17 years of age who meet every month to talk about the issues affecting young people. The purpose of the group is to listen to the views and the opinions of their peers and provide a voice for young people in Powys, so that they can feedback and contribute to decisions that affect them. Based on these conversations, they ask to meet with the services in Powys who are best placed to listen and respond or look at setting up any new projects in response to need.
If you would like more information on how to join please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Reading Well for teens suggests recommended reading and digital resources to help you understand your feelings and boost your confidence.
Photos from unSplash
– Anna Meshkov, Gaelle Marcel, Kimberley Farmer,
Sincerely Media & Olga Tutunaru.