Young Leader by lived experience Bianca, talks about her experience attending and deliverying a workshop at the European Psychiatric Assocation annaul Congress, 2023. The first one in person since before the Covid Pandemic.
Hello ☺ My name is Bianca, I am 25 years old, and I am from Italy.
I joined EYMH in November 2022 because I wanted to be part of an organisation/community that aims to promote youth engagement and representation in mental health and well-being. I recently participated with EYMH as a Young Leader by lived experience at the EPA 2023 Congress in Paris.
During this three-day event, I, and health professionals from all over the world gathered with the aim of raising awareness and exchanging knowledge on various mental health topics, from stigma, to obsessive-compulsive disorder, to migrants and women’s wellbeing and more. During the last day, I presented with Nick our interactive session on Youth co-production: why involving young people in all we do will improve their mental health!
SPECIAL MENTION: Sadly we were due to be joined by another Young Leader by lived experience, Ines, however there were alot of strikes happening in France at this time and sadly her flight (and many others) was cancelled. Ines was a full participant in helping us plan our workshop and it wouldn’t have been possible without her 🙂 .
It was a great opportunity to learn more about youth co-production, bring my personal experience and gather feedback. However, the whole event was very academic, in some ways a bit old-fashioned, the speakers mainly focused on the quantitative results of their studies rather than discussing how their findings can be used in practical means to hel and support people’s mental health.
I had the impression that most of the speakers (professionals) were not very inclusive or even detached when talking about their patients’ mental health problems. This widespread approach made me feel slightly uncomfortable or excluded at times, as a young expert by lived experience. My mental health was under pressure at times, as I was directly exposed to triggers and sensitive topics, but I felt very protected by Nick, who was always available to talk, and we had regular check-up meetings during the day.
Overall, this event was a great experience, as I was able to enrich my knowledge on different topics related to mental health and improve my public speaking skills and confidence while talking about my personal experience. However, I also feel that this event perfectly showed how the academic world is still very closed and the stigma is quite widespread even among professionals. It is therefore important to keep raising awareness, promoting, and highlighting youth empowerment and participation in mental health and wellbeing, as the younger generation is a key stakeholder in achieving more inclusive and innovative services and policies to support young people with mental health difficulties.