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Sophie’s story: Adults need to pass the baton

In this extended story from our Thinking differently manifesto, Anna Freud Young Champion, Sophie, tells us in her own words why she believes young people should be meaningfully involved in mental health policy making.


I have lived experience of mental health difficulties. It stems from the impact of suffering from and being diagnosed with chronic pain as a young person that has affected my mental health too.

This experience made my life as a teenager really difficult. None of my friends were going through the same thing as me and I just hit a barrier. I was struggling to cope and suffering from panic attacks.

Thankfully I got the help I needed and then doing things like volunteering – including as an Anna Freud Young Champion – helped massively.

It’s given me a lot of transferable skills and I’ve made friends for life because I've been able to connect with others going through something similar.

Youth voice is important

I believe active, continuous involvement of young people in policy making and service delivery is really important.

It doesn’t make sense to exclude young people in developing services, research and policy. We’re going to be impacted and, although adults have been young people too, they need to pass the baton.

This extends to government developing policy as well. At the moment, the government is not reflective of the people it’s serving.

Young people are crying out for help and saying ‘this is what would work for us’. Unfortunately, there are always some people who aren’t listening - commissioners, policy makers and even politicians. We need to fix this because you can only get ideas for improvement if the whole chain is open to change and people at the top are willing to take ideas and feedback. It can be disheartening otherwise.

What’s next for Sophie?

Anna Freud will make life going forward better. So, I’m going to keep going to help other young people’s futures.

Thinking differently - a word from Anna Freud

Anna Freud is a mental health charity and we’ve been supporting children and young people for over 70 years.

Thinking differently is our first ever manifesto. We bring young voices, scientific insight and research together to say what needs to change in the approach to children and young people’s mental health.

Our five-point plan details how we believe we can close the gap in children and young people’s mental health through a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention.

We talk in detail about why we believe young people should be meaningfully involved in an expanded approach to mental ill health prevention. Attention should be focused on:

  • Double the mental health budget currently spent on the design, testing, implementation and evaluation of prevention strategies.

  • Develop a unified prevention strategy in partnership with children and young people who have lived experience of mental ill health and come from backgrounds that are often overlooked or underserved.

  • Transform the national conversation on children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing through youth-led initiatives and campaigns.

  • Develop a cross-governmental task force to scrutinise the potential impacts of policy on mental health with a representative group of children and young people.

Contact us if you want to know more about our five-point plan.

We’re currently recruiting for new Young Champions, like Sophie, and Parent Champions. Read what’s involved and check out our Participation Strategy to learn more about our commitment to meaningful youth voice.