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Mental health experts to participate in Highland Youth Parliament annual conference

By Calum MacLeod

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Highland youth convener Anja Johnston.
Highland youth convener Anja Johnston.

Highland Youth Parliament (HYP) will be holding its annual conference this week, focusing on its Mind Us campaign for improving support for young peoples’ mental health.

The virtual event will include discussions and presentations around all aspects of mental health alongside updates from the Highland Youth Convener and the Highland Members of Scottish Youth Parliament.

The conference, taking place on Thursday, September 16, and Friday, September 17, gives young people the opportunity to interact with service directors, lead officers and elected members from Highland Council, High Life Highland and partner agencies, in order to influence decision-making that affects their lives.

Highland youth convener Anja Johnston said: “A person’s mental health is just as important as their physical health and during these times of Covid-19, many people have suffered.

“Disruption to schools and exams, restrictions on seeing family and friends, plus potential problems at home and financial worries, have all created a very difficult time which has affected people in different ways.

“Our conference gives us the opportunity to discuss what is working, what more we would like to see, as well as offering young people the chance to have high-level discussions to create and influence positive change within the Highlands.”

HYP includes young people from all 29 Highland secondary schools and local youth forums.

Council leader Margaret Davidson.
Council leader Margaret Davidson.

Highland Council leader, Councillor Margaret Davidson, commented: “The Highland Youth Parliament conference has always been an important event in the calendar, and it is extremely encouraging to see the event taking place this week, being able to be held virtually this year.

“Young people, like many others, have faced very specific challenges during the pandemic, and the conference will give them an opportunity to come together, discuss the current situation and any learning points, and consider how they can use their voices constructively to represent their peers and influence change for young people.”

The conference will also be attended by representatives from Highland Council’s education service for an education Q&A.

Highland Youth Parliament.
Highland Youth Parliament.

Also participating will be the council’s principal educational psychologist Bernadette Cairns, who will be discussing Highland Council’s mental health strategy; the Children and Young People Commissioner for Scotland’s policy officer Megan Farr; and representatives from NHS Highland and mental health charity Mikeysline.

The two-day event will conclude with area group discussions with High Life Highland youth development officers, planning on the next steps for the Mind Us campaign which aims to empower Highland’s young people to take action to improve access to mental health support.

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