Iain Mulholland of Children’s Neighbourhoods shares his experience of engaging with students at Lanark Grammar School.
Our Local Coordinator for Lanark, Iain Mulholland, has been working with pupils from Lanark Grammar on a number of different activities in recent months.
One particular endeavour gathering momentum right now, however, is the pupils’ contribution to the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) Scotland.
Here, we take a look at what’s been happening in Lanark, and explore the initiative more closely…
Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) Scotland
The Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) is a really powerful active citizenship programme, and it empowers young people to make a difference to their communities.
It also allows them to develop new skills, and build confidence through a range of contextualised learning experiences.
The YPI is the biggest independent initiative currently delivered in Scottish education, with each school responsible for directing a grant of £3000 to a local charity.
A full year-group of students are tasked with issuing this grant to the charity they champion most, through a unique programme of teamwork, research and competition.
The YPI raises awareness among young people of particular social issues and local charities. It’s an important means of devolved and locally driven grant-making.https://player.vimeo.com/video/207319665
Launching YPI in Lanark
During a launch event with YPI at the start of November, the pupils from Lanark Grammar were able to speak to representatives from a number of local charities.
This process involved question-and-answer sessions, with pupils establishing the types of work each charity undertook.
There was a mixture of organisations present – from smaller, grassroots-level groups right through to those with national remits, such as the NSPCC who deliver amazing work through the Childline project.
Iain was previously involved in initial survey work with the young people during some of our Capabilities research. This gave pupils the opportunity to prioritise what they felt they needed most to live happy and healthy lives.
With COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns interrupting education over the past 18 months, isolation and a lack of structure to life has had a detrimental impact on young people universally.
The topic of mental health had not come to the fore during the previous survey work, but as the YPI session went on, however, it became clear that Iain’s group were particularly interested in championing organisations supporting positive mental health and wellbeing.
It was interesting to watch the children – who were a wee bit shy and uncertain at first – move around the projects and gradually grow in confidence as they gathered details to support their decision-making.”IAIN MULHOLLAND, CNS COORDINATOR FOR LANARK
Going beyond the suggested questions they had been issued, the pupils began to ask thoughtful questions that clearly showed a desire to better understand issues surrounding mental health, and what resources are available to support people who are struggling.
Following the initial introductions to the different local charities, the pupils began to settle on a small organisation based in Lanark, called Esteem Clydesdale.
A mental health orientated charity, Esteem is run by dedicated and committed volunteers who have a variety of lived experiences, and offer knowledge and support to those dealing with effects of trauma and mental illness.
The children who approached us were really interested in understanding our services. They asked questions like: ‘How can I support my parents via Esteem?’ Many don’t understand that young people struggle at school because they have become carers for their family members.”KAREN, ESTEEM CLYDESDALE
Their aim is also to reduce the rate of suicide in the Clydesdale area, and to raise awareness of the human rights of those who are experiencing, recovering, or have recovered from a mental health illness.
Services offered by Esteem include peer support groups, developing coping strategies, training courses and workshops as well as complementary therapies.
Since the initial meeting between Esteem and the pupils, Iain has met with volunteers at Esteem over the past few weeks. They’ve been discussing ways to support Esteem in providing help to local young people and the wider community.
It’s Iain’s hope that by improving the visibility of the Esteem project through the Youth & Philanthropy Initiative, young people from the school will have more confidence to come forward and speak to someone if they are struggling. This first step can lead to signposting to other services, and gaining further assistance if required.
Esteem: Bringing mental wellbeing to the fore
Issues surrounding mental health and wellbeing have been brought into sharp focus in recent years, particularly throughout the Coronavirus pandemic.
Demand for support is increasing, but while mechanisms for providing more help are still developing, local organisations such as Esteem are filling in gaps that emerge in this provision.
I think the young people were surprised that Esteem is self-funded, and that we all volunteer because we all have, or have had, struggles with mental health in our lives. We’re committed to helping other people – even a small amount of funding goes a long way in supporting us.”KAREN, ESTEEM CLYDESDALE
The pupils at Lanark Grammar recognise this, and their support of groups like Esteem will help to further address the barriers and stigma some people face when tackling issues relating to their mental wellbeing.
The more society works together, the better we’ll be able to find solutions, and offer help to those who need it the most.
CNS: Support for schools
Iain has thoroughly enjoyed playing a small part in the YPI initiative with Lanark Grammar, and we’d like to give a huge thanks to Mrs West, the school lead on this project. She has been a great partner to CNS since our introduction into Lanark.
Her passion and drive to help local young people is fantastic, and working with her has allowed us to make early steps into undertaking more work in the school over the coming year.
This will look to build on work promoting positive mental health and wellbeing that we’ve previously carried out with young people in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire. Stay tuned!
For local advice and support on issues relating to mental health, please see the following organisations:
You can find the original blog from Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland here.