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Participation at Anna Freud – Poetry in motion

This week is the 10th annual Children’s Mental Health Week and the theme is ‘My Voice Matters’.

To mark the week and to showcase our commitment to meaningfully raising the voices of young people we’re officially launching our new participation strategy, which aims to transform how we involve children and young people in our work.

This new strategy will guide how we work with children, young people and families so our resources, support and planning better reflects their needs. If we do this well, we’ll be more impactful and the young people we work with will build their confidence and skills, too – there's a real double benefit.

To bring our new strategy to life, we are sharing how one of our Participation Programme Assistants, Maddie, 24, helped to produce a short film. This film shows how the Lundy model, which is at the heart of our strategy, can be used. Read Maddie’s words below to find out what impact this had on her and what kind of impact she hopes the film will have on those who watch it.

To learn more about our participation work head to our Participation Strategy webpage.

Maddi, Lundy and Me 

Participation at Anna Freud comes in many forms - from public speaking opportunities to reviewing new publications or practice tools, to co-designing training for practitioners. But sometimes a more unusual opportunity arises. This was the case for 24 year-old Participation Programme Assistant Maddi.  

Maddi has been involved with Anna Freud for a number of years, bravely sharing her mental health experiences in a variety of ways. However, recently, Maddi was invited to help the Participation team produce a short film about young people’s experiences of accessing mental health services when in crisis. The other aim was to bring the Lundy model of participation to life in the script via a poem she would write.  

In very little time she produced a poem that became the script for the ‘Lundy and me’ film.   

I think quite a lot of the stuff is things that I'd write about anyway, creatively. So, I have ways of approaching it and ways of thinking about it, in my own head,” she says. Despite this confidence, she did have concerns that it wouldn't, “hit the right notes and that it wouldn't meet people where they need to be met or explain things well enough.” 

But she needn’t have doubted. The poem, and now the film script, is a brilliant example of what can be produced if people are offered the opportunity to not only share their experiences and have a voice, but when they are empowered to share their unique talents too.  

Maddi explains her thinking around some of key lines from the poem below: 

 ’I'm tired of fighting.’  

“This poem obviously takes someone through the process of getting referred into a service. And I feel like a lot of people feel that there's been a lot of fighting done before they've even got through the door. So, from getting that referral to all the things that go on, in my experience and the experience of people I've met along the way, it can be really exhausting just trying to get to that first appointment.” 

‘There are voices here, too. In the holding space.’   

“This wasn’t literal. I was imagining, if you had a room full of teenagers waiting to get referred and they were held together, what would the atmosphere be like, what would they be saying, how would they be feeling?  I don't quite know why I had that image. I suppose it's quite a separated process. You know, you wouldn't meet other people that way, you wouldn't be put in that situation. So, in my head it was quite nice to picture a world in which you would.” 

‘But I need the space to speak, The space to impact my own life again.’  

It can be really challenging to make an impact and feel heard. If you're already unwell and really struggling to prioritise yourself, then it can be really difficult to feel like you're having a positive impact on your own life. When I was seeking services I needed a lot of support to be able to feel that I could have an impact. So I wanted to highlight that need for a bit of support and a bit of motivation to be able to feel that that young person has that impact on their own life.” 

‘I used to feel…human.’ 

“I guess it can feel quite ostracising when you're struggling with mental health and quite isolating. It can feel quite easily as though you're not the same as your peers, or you're not the same as the world you're meant to be moving through, and so that was a way of stating that quite bluntly, I guess. By saying, at the moment this situation makes you feel like you're not the same as everyone else. Makes you feel that you're not on the right path. Makes you feel like you're not of the same value as those around you. 

‘I finally feel heard’,  

I think when you're absolutely exhausted from trying to get your voice heard and trying to get someone to support you, I think mostly, for me at least, it feels like relief. 

“It's just that moment of actually someone is listening and I can take a deep breath and pause for a second and rest in that and feel safer in yourself. Definitely a relief moment.” 

Maddi really enjoyed the writing process and was involved in the rest of the production too, ensuring the edit matched her vision. She valued being asked to be involved in this way, so she wasn’t just “handing over some work [the poem] and then that was it,” she was involved in how the film was realised.   

Maddi’s hopes for the impact Lundy and Me can have 

Maddi hopes the film helps people who have been, or are in, a crisis situation to “feel acknowledged and listened to” and that others without such experience can gain an insight “and have a bit of compassion without having to speak to someone and invade personal areas of their life through conversation.” 

She also hopes that service providers who see the film “keep the impact of [their] decisions in mind. Being really sensitive to the actions they take and making sure that the impact on young people is kept at the heart of decision making.” 

Maddi’s next steps 

Maddi believes the many and varied opportunities she’s had to share her experiences and challenges, as part of her participation work with Anna Freud, have been empowering and definitely helped her recovery.   

Maddi is still having a hard time with her mental health but these challenges don’t hold her back. While studying her fine art degree she is working on her own film project in her spare time, and is taking all she has learnt from working on the ‘Lundy and me’ film with her to make it a success.  

Anna Freud will continue with its aim of empowering young people like Maddi and their parents and carers, to not only share their experiences to help change mental health services and policies, but to also ensure that they gain as much as they can, for themselves, along the way, whatever that may be. 

Watch the Lundy and Me film and download and share our Participation Strategy  

Children’s Mental Health Week is a mental health awareness week that empowers, equips and gives a voice to all children and young people in the UK. This year’s theme is ‘My Voice Matters’.