My Voice Matters: Kay’s Story

It’s Children’s Mental Health Week and the theme of this year is My Voice Matters. The theme is all about empowering children and young people by providing them with the tools they need to express themselves.

This is Kay*. She took part in the DISCOVER programme, which is an award-winning schools-based workshop programme supporting 16-18 year olds to manage stress and worry. The DISCOVER team is based at South London and Maudsley. This week, she’s using her voice to support others.

Kay acknowledges that she used to be reluctant to open up, instead preferring to deal with things on her own. When her mum sadly passed away, she found it even more difficult to talk to people about her loss, and kept her feelings to herself. She thought that withholding her voice would mean protecting herself, and others too, from her pain. However, this left her feeling low, isolated and unable to focus on other things.

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I’ve always liked to be independent…I don’t like asking people for help.

Kay signed up to the DISCOVER programme after an assembly at her school advertising the workshop and how it could be helpful. It was in a 1:1 meeting with a member of the DISCOVER team that she first decided to ask for help. Although her family, friends and teachers were aware of her bereavement, they were not fully aware of how it had impacted her. In addition, she was feeling a lot of pressure to succeed at school, and was staying up late working, not getting enough sleep, and not taking any breaks to recharge.

You’re not alone. Genuinely, you’re not alone.

Everyone who comes to a DISCOVER workshop set themselves a goal to work on for the following three months, and are supported by a DISCOVER clinician to achieve their goals. Kay chose to ‘stop overthinking and think positively’ by practicing mindfulness regularly and making more time for herself and her hobbies. The programme helped her to feel listened to and she learnt to use her voice to open up more to others. This helped her value other people’s support, and their perspectives on her problems and to be kinder to herself.

With the right support and help, you can get through it.

As part of their commitment to person-centred care, DISCOVER continuously evaluate their work with young people. We use student feedback forms, online surveys and representative advisory groups to ensure that DISCOVER stays relevant, accessible and impactful for young people. In a project that we ran recently, to seek young peoples’ feedback on existing DISCOVER sessions, a clear message arose: enhance the student voice. ‘They felt that while DISCOVER’s tips for stress and anxiety management were useful and clear, they were more motivated to try them out if relatable peers could vouch for them and show how these ideas could be applied to the real lives of young people. 

DISCOVER subsequently set out to develop new videos that portray a diverse range of experiences, using the exact words of young people. Kay was a willing advocate for this project and volunteered her voice once more, in the hope that it would inspire others experiencing any kind of loss to reach out for support. Her voice represents that of thousands of others voices who take part in the DISCOVER programme each year, and who have shaped the service into what it is today.

 *Kay is a pseudonym used to protect her anonymity. In the video, her words are spoken by an actor.

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