Tanya Marwaha, (BSc International Relations and Chinese, 2022) has recently set up a youth-led mental health organisation, for young people to help other young people care for their mental wellbeing. Championing Youth Minds is a safe space for young people, to voice their experiences, connect with others, access free youth-made resources and join free mental wellbeing workshops.
Without a doubt the recent year has been the most stressful time for most of us. Dealing with university, social life (or could say a lack of), anxiety around COVID and the hundreds of other challenges was a lot. In this time I felt it was important to find an escape, volunteering became my escape to make a positive impact in a world going through a crisis.
How it all started
On a walk one day while brainstorming potential solutions to the mental health pandemic we are seeing, the idea came to mind of a youth-led platform to empower young people, provide a safe space and useful resources. I decided I would reach out to my local council to see if this idea was even a good one, surprisingly the reception was more than I could have ever hoped.
#1 lesson learnt: Any idea you have is worth discussing, you never know the true necessity and appreciation of your idea until you take it forward.
It was overwhelming at first, meeting so many new people who were passionate about mental health and making a change. Some of these individuals have dedicated decades to this cause, without a doubt I felt a home amongst such determined people.
#2 lesson learnt: Volunteering will allow you to meet people who share the same raging passion as you, which for me was the most heart-warming and rewarding experience of it all.
Building up from there
Upon such positive reception, I quickly took the decision to put this into reality. Let’s build a website, network, reach out to other charities and collect a group of like-minded volunteers that wish to make a difference.
#3 Lesson learnt: Do not be afraid to try something new! Web design and digital content creation were things I had no experience in and honestly felt uncomfortable at the thought of it. However, in such a short period of time I had the opportunity to build such valuable skills, so I am glad I took that challenge.
Thankfully within my network many people wanted to immediately get involved, similarly my networking attempts were successful and we got talking with other charities for collaborations. Working with such a diverse group of individuals, with different passions within mental health, experiences and connections felt like a gift that keeps on giving.
#4 Lesson learnt: Working with new people is a blessing in disguise. There is so much I have been able to learn from other volunteers, coming for all walks of life to work together on a common cause. Whether this has been practical skills, technical skills or personal advice, it has truly helped me grow.
The plan for the future
My vision for Championing Youth Minds is that we will continue to grow, empower our youth to speak out, share experiences and advice, create resources and encourage a positive understanding of mental health for the coming generations. It can be daunting, with so much to be responsible of, starting from the bottom as an individual with a dream but do not let that put you off.
#5 lesson learnt: Aim high. I have networked with people I have only ever seen on TV! As long as you are passionate, people will always be enthusiastic to hear more and help when and where they can. Don’t be limited if you are just starting out or don’t feel like you are ‘there’ yet, just go for it.
Whether you volunteer with us part-time, on a ad-hoc basis or just whenever you feel like it, your contributions will always be extremely valuable. That goes for any organisation you may volunteer for. There is never anything negative you will get from volunteering, but there are amplitudes of benefits.
#6 Lesson learnt: Volunteering makes you understand yourself and others better. You develop skills which you didn’t anticipate, learn from people you never thought you would meet and feel a sense of positivity that is priceless.
If you would like to know more about volunteering, my experiences and all things positive then please reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.