As a member of the very first steering group for the first campaign for Make Our Rights Reality, Jawwad talks about his journey and why you should sign up to be a steering group member for 2019/2020.
When I applied for the ‘Our Minds Our Future’ campaign, I wasn’t even sure what I was signing myself up for except to make a positive change in mental health. The campaign’s name and priorities hadn’t been set as that was to be decided by the steering group, Youth Access were definitely committed to ensuring that the campaign was genuinely led by young people.
Soon, all ten steering group members came together to form the base of the campaign. We all came from different backgrounds, had unique experiences, but we were all united by the fact that we wanted to see the mental health system become better, effective and genuinely work for us. constant conversations are futile when people are coming forward with their difficulties and are met with a stubborn, inefficient and unsupportive system.
Let’s move the conversation on from just being about stigma to being about real change.
Stigma around mental health is what leads the conversation about mental health right now, people are encouraged to talk about their mental health. This effort is to be applauded and is very much an important part of building a better society, but these constant conversations are futile when people are coming forward with their difficulties and are met with a stubborn, inefficient and unsupportive system. Let’s move the conversation on from just being about stigma to being about real change.
An alternate lens to look at mental health with is that of human rights. These two aren’t immediate partners in the discussion about mental health, but there is a big part for human rights to play when discussing the infringements of the current mental health service.
So, the hypothesis goes that if we could argue that the current mental health system is breaching our human rights, then there would be a strong basis to fight for change. Therefore, we felt that the campaign should adopt a rights-focused approach to the debate around changing mental health.
The strategy was built and discussed extensively through residentials, workshops and online meetings. We spoke about the campaign with various audiences, one even included speaking to the BBC!
It didn’t take long for the name and campaign priorities to be settled on. ‘Our Minds, Our Future’ was an effective name for the campaign for two reasons, it was an articulate phrase of asserting how ‘our’ minds were important part and should be the focus of the mental health system, and also that the stakes were high as inaction and ineffectiveness would detrimentally impact our futures too. The strategy was built and discussed extensively through residentials, workshops and online meetings. We spoke about the campaign with various audiences, one even included speaking to the BBC!
I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t any hiccups and bumps. It is to be expected for a brand-new campaign of this scale. Roles and expectations did take a while to establish, implementation needed to be scaled back at some points and sometimes we, as a voluntary steering group, took on more than we could handle and had to drop due to risk of burnout. The helpful thing was that we all knew and understood that we were together on this learning curve and brand-new journey, these were to be expected.
My advice for the incoming steering group is firstly to know your motivations. It could be because you want to advocate for a better mental health system, to develop your skills in campaigning or other cool reasons but know what’s spurring you on. If you encounter troughs in the campaign or bouts of disengagement, then these will get you through those rough patches.
Second is to know and understand what you can take on and what you can’t, the last thing you want is burnout. Enthusiasm is great and well-needed, but you need to be able to be healthy so taking on too much isn’t what you should put onto yourself.
And finally, enjoy it. You’ll meet some fantastic and supportive people and have some great moments, savour it. A year goes a lot quicker than you expect!
You can sign up to be on the next steering group, leading the campaign over the next 12 months. Read more here. Deadline 5pm Sunday 7th April.