Hi! My name is Will, and I am proud to be a member of the NSPCC Young People’s Board for Change. The board is made up of fifteen young people – aged 13 - 16 - who work to help shape the work of the NSPCC, and all share the same goal of making positive change for young people.
I applied because I had so many ideas on current affairs and how they affect young people and was desperate to find a platform to share these ideas and to see the change I believe we need. Too often we see young people have decisions made for them without any form of consultation and have their lives made more difficult as a result. Those in power, often in government, seem to believe that simply because they were once a young person, they know what needs to be done.
Without wishing to call anyone old, the world in which young people are growing up in is a completely different world to generations before. Whether that be because of exposure to social media from a young age or months of life in lockdown, going forward, decisions for young people must have the say of young people. This is why the NSPCC Young People’s Board for Change is so important.
For a charity as large and who do as much work as the NSPCC to have a board of young people who directly input into the work they do is so special. We have the unique opportunity to shape the charity’s policy and what their focus should be on.
Nothing short of enjoyable and productive
So far, I cannot begin to describe how amazing my time on the board has been. A particular highlight for me was being invited to the CEO briefing (and not just because I missed chemistry!), as this opportunity was why I joined the board, to talk about what is important to me and young people.
To have those at the top of the organisation taking a real interest in what I had to say was a real encouragement to me as usually my strong opinions were to adult’s dismay. On a personal note, the most surreal moment to date was having my speech on male mental health used at the Labour and Conservative party conferences last year.
As a young person who is highly involved with politics, having the opportunity to speak to the two main parties in the UK is something I still am in disbelief that has happened. I must say, while I believed the opportunity would be amazing when I applied, I am amazed at the number of opportunities that have been given to us, from meeting a member of The Royal Family to helping create a new secondary school programme on relationships due to be rolled out this year.
It has been a wide ranging first year in the role but has been nothing less than very enjoyable and productive.
Making a difference in every meeting
Being on the board has had a hugely positive effect on my mental wellbeing. I feel as if I am making a difference and in every meeting I’m shaping and considering ideas that will help and support many young people in the UK. This has made me feel that my voice is being heard and this is all many young people ask, we want to be listened to.
I urge all young people to get involved in charities and organisations that help whatever is important to them. Yes, you will be making a difference and that is a wonderful thing, but to think selfishly for just a moment, for you, it will do nothing but make you feel unstoppable, which is how all young people should feel.
This is a lovely tie into Children’s Mental Health Awareness week (7 - 13 February) and this year’s theme of “Growing Together” which is a fantastic message. Let’s encourage more young people to work together to make change. As young people we must rally together for change, and realise the only way we can grow, is together.
The message we send to the children of today, shapes the adults of tomorrow
To finish, I want to share with you something that is particularly important to me and is extremely relevant for this week, male mental health.
This last year has been the hardest year imaginable, especially for young people. A lack of clarity on school has seen anxiety skyrocket, and a long line of young people desperate for support. Perhaps more worryingly, is that we are seeing a distinct lack of young men reaching out for the help they need.
This is not those young men’s burden, its society’s burden. We teach boys from a young age a ridiculous idea that they must conceal their emotions, and to not mask them is considered “un-man like”. Despite this, we stand around scratching our heads and wonder why men aren’t even trying to get the support we need.
This is a stain on all of us and should be something we fight together. This means giving men the extra support they need to break out of this toxic cycle. Remember, the message we send to the children of today, shapes the adults of tomorrow. I urge all those in need to reach out and remember that ChildLine is here for any young person struggling with their mental health and that they can call on 0800 1111 or get in touch online on childline.org.uk
I don’t know what the next year on the board has in store for us, hopefully an in-person meet up! But I can tell you, we are growing together and making change together and will continue to do so. I quote one of my heroes when I say, “The opportunity to serve is all we ask”.
William Blewitt is a member of NSPCC Young People’s Board for Change