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Why Lingo matters

A Young Champion, Amy Herring, writes about why her co-production project, Lingo, matters. 

Stigma is a massive barrier when communicating about mental health, and the impact of stigma can be frightening for children and young people. Outcomes of stigma on children and young people can include: isolation, bullying, worries and unemployment. From looking at potential outcomes of stigma, it is no wonder children and young people don’t want to talk about their mental health. But it is never at any point okay for a child or young person to sit in silence about their mental health or even to be afraid to speak about how they are feeling. When a child or young person wants to talk about their mental health they sometimes may not know how to articulate or convey what they want to say, which means there are communication barriers in mental health.

Some children and young people I’ve spoken to with mental health issues say they feel the person they are talking to doesn’t understand what they are saying or how they feel. Some parents say they don’t know the best way to talk to their child about their mental health. Even some professionals are unsure about how to engage in conversation about mental health. This made me reflect on the communication barrier around mental health.

As someone with Aspergers Syndrome, I understand the feeling that the professional or my parents or even my friends are not listening or don’t understand me. This is frustrating and I shut myself off from everyone, which makes my mental health worse. In my case I was eventually diagnosed with severe depression and later on I was diagnosed with PTSD. This was due to communication barriers, but also worry and anxiety prompted by stigma. I remember telling my friends I had Aspergers and depression – I was left by them. Years later we all became friends again and they told me they stopped talking to me because they were afraid they would stimulate my depression, because they didn’t know what was safe to say to me or what would trigger my depression or PTSD.

To better understand the communication barrier just imagine children and young people are the audience at a music concert and parents/professionals are the bands. At a concert if you don’t engage the audience, the audience will not want to come back, they may feel bored or just not like the atmosphere. Setting the right tone and getting the atmosphere right is crucial for effective engagement and communication and this is why it needs to be addressed.

In April my project, called Lingo, was lucky enough to be selected as the first Co-production Generation Project. The overall aim and outcome of Lingo is to improve communication between young people talking about their mental health, feelings and emotions to adults, but to also address the stigma around mental health in young people to enable them to feel comfortable when talking about their mental health. The project itself has been designed with a co-production element, which has been done alongside young people, parents and staff at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families.

The first half of Lingo is a resource aimed at providing guidance to adults on how to support a young person when they are talking about their mental health. The evidence gathered will be from surveys from young people aged between 11-18 who will tell us what works for them and what doesn’t work so well when they are talking to an adult about their mental health. There will also be surveys from adults who can be either parents, carers or in the education or health profession who will tell us what works for them and what doesn’t work so well for them when a young person is talking to them about their mental health.

The second half of Lingo is an artwork being done with the help of Young Producers at the National Gallery with the aim of showing how we communicate our mental health, feelings and emotions through another method of communication, but it also aims to address stigma. The artwork can be a painting, a drawing – anything that you think is a great way to communicate mental health. 

If interested in producing a piece of art please contact Deadline for artwork is 22nd October, and the artwork will be on display at an exhibition.