The idea for the Teen Allies website came about while the students were on a work placement with the Westminster charity as part of their studies. They presented their proposal to the charity’s president and trustees who gave their full support to develop the project.
Young people are one of the groups whose mental health has been worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020 one in six children aged five to 16 and a fifth of 17 to 22-year-olds had symptoms of a mental health disorder.
Health and Social Care student Bibi Adegbie, 17, from Haringey, said: “The Mind Allies website wasn’t very teen friendly. We wanted to create a space that was more aimed at the younger generation, which is when we came up with the idea for Teen Allies.
“We suggested that they change the colours for the new website to make it more appealing to teenagers, and that it should include more videos for them to interact with and influencers to talk about their experience of mental health.
“We are really happy they listened to our ideas and excited that the website is actually going to be developed. It’s been a great opportunity and will be so beneficial.”
Another student, Jenise Watkiss-Wright, 17, from Enfield, said: “I think it’s so important for teenagers to have access to mental health support. There’s not enough support out there and we cannot always talk to family and friends because we feel judged.
“Teenagers often struggle to share their feelings with others. They’re scared they will be criticised, especially boys because they’re seen as the dominant gender and feel they have to maintain an image or they will be laughed at, which hurts them even more.
“I hope that Teen Allies will go far to help a lot of teenagers who feel alone or find it hard to express their feelings. It is important that people know that young people also suffer from mental health issues.”
Bibi and Jenise are among 42 students who have undertaken a placement with Mind Allies this year. During their placements, some students provided support to the charity’s Roses Campaign during Mental Health Awareness Week from 10-16 May. The campaign has been running since 2019 and sees volunteers from the charity hand out fresh roses to people with a positive, motivational message on an attached label.
Students helped create videos and social media posts for the campaign and gave out roses to people at Victoria station and to NHS staff at University College Hospital.
Adam Asfar, President of Mind Allies, said: “There are honestly not enough words to say how amazing the students have been, both working on the Teen Allies website project and volunteering for us. Creating a website for under 18s to get support is a brilliant idea. The students have drawn on their personal experience and expertise to build content and develop this service that will be so beneficial to young people like them. The new Teen Allies will provide a wide range of support and advice on so many different aspects of mental health along with resources on how to help yourself or a friend.”