Living with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) takes its toll, both physically and mentally on those who have the condition. For 18-year-old student Shannon, this means taking daily medication, regular visits to specialist doctors and using self-care measures to manage triggers that can cause episodes of severe pain.
The impact of SCD on Shannon’s physical health can be unpredictable and exhausting, and the condition has resulted in some time away from her A Level studies, which makes her feel anxious about her exam results.
Despite her day to day battle with SCD, Shannon’s ambition and joy for learning new things shines through. When she’s not learning to play the guitar or flexing her photography skills, Shannon can be found at her local radio station where she’s learning the ropes to support her ambitions of a career in media.
Whilst studying for her final exams, Shannon found relief as a volunteer at Croydon’s BME Forum’s recent Young Minds Matter Conference. Developed by young people and for young people, the event was curated with Shannon and other people around her age to create an event that would break down the stigma of mental health for young people in Croydon.
The Young Minds Matter Conference
Working in partnership with Maudsley Charity Trust, Off The Record, and the Wandsworth Community Empower Network and part of the Ethnicity & Mental Health Improvement Project’s, aim to reduce inequalities in mental health care, improve mental health and mental health care of local BME communities, the conference had hopes to capture the authentic mental health concerns that young people are facing.
Through interactive workshops, panel discussions and motivational speeches, the event taught 15 to 18-year old’s how to understand their mental health and identify cues in those who may be struggling around them.
A standing ovation and huge round of applause reverberated around the room for Dr Ahmed Hankir who captivated the 70 attendees with his childhood story of his move from Lebanon, enduring the stresses of medical school and his own mental health struggles.
“We want to make sure all young people across Croydon get the right mental health support they need, whenever they need it. I’m thrilled that this event was able to educate and capture what’s on the hearts and minds of young people across the borough, to help us shape services to reduce mental health inequalities.”Andrew Brown, Chief Executive of Croydon BME Forum
Workshops focused on normalising mental health, stress and communicating thoughts and feelings, with hopes to equip young people with the basics of understanding their mental health and the importance of talking about it.
With on the day support from Off The Record, Black Minds Matter, and Young Gamers and Gamblers Trust, young people were also able to get advice directly from charities specialising in young people’s mental health support.
Shannon shared more about her volunteering experience
What made you want to get involved with the event?
“I’ve missed quite a lot of school because of living with Sickle Cell over the past 18 months. When I’m unwell I can feel depressed, and my exams have been stressful. Working as a volunteer for this project was a nice and worthwhile distraction from everything going on.”
What did you take away from the day?
“Mental health is so important. It really affects everything you do. I loved being a part of something that can help other young people. I felt that we were listened to and involved in bringing everything together. A group of us met with Croydon BME Forum to develop the themes of the workshop and suggested ways to make people feel comfortable and encourage discussions on the day.”
Visit Kooth.com for free and anonymous online support for children and young people.