‘There’s limited budget.” “We’ve run out of funding.” We've got to make cuts.”
I am tired of hearing these words. Tired of hearing that money is the solution to the crisis. Tired of hearing that funding is a barrier.
Call me naive, call me young but young people who are struggle aren't asking for life changing sums. We aren't asking for million pound run services with swanky waiting rooms and top notch technology. We quite frankly couldn't care less about that. I am exhausted of shouting from the roof tops that someone just needs to listen. That we want a voice. That we need a voice. That we deserve a voice.
Take off your finance head. Your job head if you have to. And put back on the one that has a son or a daughter, or a nephew or a niece, even a friend. Think of them struggling with there mental health. Think of them being told that things are going to improve. But seeing little improvement. And again try and tell me that there is nothing we can do.
Yes, our world seems to be obsessed by money. The ideology that money can fix our problems. Climate Change? Pump some money into the funding and we can claim its getting better. Transport? Lets just give train companies a slight rise? But, this is me begging you to listen that so much can be done without money. Theres no denying that it can help. Because yes people need paying. Things cost money. But there are things that cost nothing. Nothing but time and a listening ear.
Since the age of 11 I have campaigned and fought for a voice. In particularly in mental health services. I couldn't possibly count up the hours of my life I have put into making a difference. The hours of my time that I could have been sleeping, partying or maybe even studying a bit harder. (sorry mum and dad) But I haven’t. I have attended meetings, campaigns, conferences. I have sat there in my dungarees and demanded to be listened to. Demanded that we think outside the box. Look at those volunteering around us and utilise there work.
To me, charities are incredible. Charities are where the world is changed. Because charities look at the person not the cost. Charities have people like myself who volunteer there time because they are that passionate about making a change. And yes we need funding. But watch us spread our funding thinly and create change. Because we do. Every single day.
Im not one to blow my own trumpet but I am going to give you an example.
My charity Youth Mental Health Matters recently ran a conference. We brought together over 100 people, over 10 organisations and so many voices. And you want to know how much that cost us? Under £300.
We brought together struggling teachers who together came up with solutions. We brought together young people from across greater manchester who creatively came up with ideas to help them. There voices came together, they told us what they needed. And now we are responding.
Responding with projects; sports and creative arts, with resources; assemblies, lesson plans, wellbeing ambassadors. We are a small group. With very limited money. But with a huge passion. And it is that passion that is driving the change.
And yes, we aren't fixing the mental health crisis. But we are helping young people feel less alone. Helping schools use what they already have in a young person friendly way. We are helping young people feel hope. Hope that there are people out there, fighting alongside them.
Not one person who works in the charity is paid. Not one young person has come to a meeting and expected anything but the opportunity to have a voice. Having a voice. Costs nothing. Listening to that voice. Cost time. And responding to that voice. Can be simple.
And now, I am begging with you to stop using funding as a barricade. To use the young people willing to speak, listen, give time and make a change. To listen to our ideas, our sometimes crazy plans and think about what you can do.
Because we as young people, as people, really can do wonderful things.