Teens become community mental health champions after pioneering project

A group of black and minority ethnic teenagers from Cardiff have become mental health and wellbeing champions for their community after taking part in a pioneering project.

Eighteen young men from the Butetown area of the city, aged between 14 and 19 and of Somali, Yemeni, African and Caribbean heritage, took part in the Talking Mental Health course.

The eight-week course, delivered by Ajuda Training Services in partnership with Cardiff Youth Services and Tiger Bay Amateur Boxing Club, aimed to raise awareness of mental health issues and help participants with strategies to look after their own mental wellbeing.

Six of the teenagers graduated as mental health and wellbeing champions at a ceremony last week. They will now volunteer in their community and champion and support mental health awareness among other young people.

Cardiff has one of the oldest and largest Somali communities in the UK, but there is still a limited understanding of the community’s specific health and wellbeing needs. Combined with cultural, religious and other barriers this means young people living with mental health issues rarely seek help or access mental health services.

Dawn Evans, Ajuda’s founder, said:

“We know people who are suffering negative life events, poverty, poor housing, racism, issues with religion or sexuality, or who have escaped from places of conflict are more likely to suffer mental ill-health.

“We would be doing these young people a disservice if we did not acknowledge that individuals and families, with heritage and links to Somali, Yemeni, African and Caribbean communities, have struggled over time with many of these challenging issues.”

The course participants said they felt the project had helped keep them safe and off the street, and that it had increased their confidence to support others experiencing mental health difficulties.

They graduated at a ceremony in Butetown, attended by Lord Mayor Councillor Daniel De’Ath. Councillor De’Ath said:

“I believe the need to talk and share emotional and mental health issues is critical to helping us all to better appreciate challenges and find positive coping methods.”

Dawn Evans said:

“They demonstrate how collectively, we can provide improved capability and skills that act as a resource for all of us in Wales, and wherever they go.”

The training course was funded by a Welsh Government grant. Due to the success of the project organisers have secured further funding and now intend to deliver the course to teenagers and young women in the Butetown, Riverside and Grangetown areas.

Ajuda Training Services is organising the Mental Health and Wellbeing Show 2020 on 21 May 2020 at Cardiff City Stadium, Leckwith. For more information, visit: https://www.mhwshow.co.uk/