Perse student talks mental health with Prime Minister Boris Johnson
10 Mar 2021
Ellie Tomson (Lower Sixth) shared her views on mental health with Prime Minister Boris Johnson MP following the launch of a major government support package for young people.
The Perse student was one of four youngsters who took part in a video call with the UK premier and Dr Alex George, the government’s recently-appointed Youth Mental Health Ambassador, to mark the announcement of a £79million boost to mental health services for children and young people.
She said: “I spoke mainly about going back to school and everything around that. I was really nervous beforehand and it was quite surreal, but I soon felt relaxed and it felt like quite a natural conversation between us all.
“It was great to have the opportunity to talk to the Prime Minister. I spoke to Dr George afterwards and he said the PM was very impressed with all of us and that we spoke very intelligently and eloquently as well.
“Dr George can tell the Prime Minister what he thinks, but I feel if he hears about the importance of mental health from young people directly, it can make a massive impression. It was definitely a great experience.”
Today @DrAlexGeorge and I spoke with some young people from across the country, to hear about their experiences throughout the pandemic.
We have announced a £79 million support package for youth mental health and wellbeing. pic.twitter.com/vmngEtcEP5
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) March 5, 2021
Ellie was invited to join in the conversation with the Prime Minister by Dr George, having spoken to him a few months ago while carrying out research for her ongoing Rouse Awards project investigating the extent to which schools shape good mental health in young people today.
She said: “Dr George is a massive mental health advocate on social media and I got some really good information from him which is helping me with my project. He asked if I’d like to share my experiences and gave me a few ideas to focus on.”
Ellie, who has also become a member of mental health charity Mind’s Youth Voice Network, believes encouraging children to be open about how they are feeling from a young age is vital.
“My project looks into early immersion of mental health into education and how if it’s something children talk about from a very young age then hopefully there’s less stigma around it,” she said.
“Even people my age are embarrassed to talk about mental health because it’s quite a sensitive topic for many. There are obviously other factors, but the stigma is a massive part of it.”
NHS research suggests one in six young people may now have a mental health problem compared to one in nine in 2017. Although Ellie does not believe the Covid-19 lockdown is totally to blame for the increase, she felt it had heightened the issue.
As such, she welcomed the government’s support package, which will include a huge growth in the number of mental health support teams to work with schools across the UK.
Ellie said: “Our school has a very good mental health support system compared to so many schools across the country. Many schools don’t have counsellors or teachers who are mental health first-aiders and because there’s not so much support, many young people don’t talk about it and struggle, so this scheme is very important.”