Teenager in campaigning health group wins through to awards final

Yopey finalist Antony Sibley from Shillington
Yopey finalist Antony Sibley from Shillington

Three young people from Chronicle country are among a group from the county with mental health issues who have won through to the final of the YOPEY awards.

Antony Sibley, Callum Gebbie and Becky Bartlett are part of a group called Connect which is raising awareness of mental health and want to remove the stigma that prevents many people from being open about the issues they face.

The group were nominated for Atlas Young People of the Year awards – which will be held at Cranfield University on Friday, October 9 – by Niki Scott, the participation officer of CHUMS, the Bereavement Trauma and Emotional Wellbeing Service, and CAMHS, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service – two services used by young people with mental health issues.

Niki said: “In this day and age many young people suffer from anxiety and low self-esteem. The pressure of daily life can cause many issues for them.”

She described the seven members of Connect as “amazing young people. They work together to help raise awareness of mental health issues that young people face and fight to reduce the stigma attached.”

They meet once a week to discuss current issues and ideas that might affect them on a daily basis. Part of the draw for the youngsters is to meet others who may be suffering from similar mental health issues.

They helped to host a CHUMS open evening and have produced a magazine that is available in CHUMS and CAMHS waiting rooms. They are also involved in the interview panels for recruiting new members of staff to the two mental health services.

The group have also made short educational film called Joe’s Story. The 20-minute film is due to be shown in Bedfordshire schools later this year.

Niki added: “I really admire them because they have overcome their own issues and anxieties to put themselves in the spotlight to raise awareness. Working together has improved their confidence and their communication skills.”

Antony, 19, of Hillside Close, Shillington, said: “While doing my GSCEs I was having anxiety attacks and sometimes had to leave the classroom. I was referred to CHUMS by one of the teachers and coming to the weekly Connect sessions really helped me.

“I have recovered but I still go to weekly meetings to help and support the group. I was asked to speak about my experiences at a conference for educational professionals and this was very successful.

“I help run the newly formed magazine for the group which is something I enjoy as does the rest of the group. We work together to fill it with important features plus concert and film reviews and the like.

“I feel that my involvement with CHUMS has been such a success that instead of starting a degree in ICT later this year I will be doing an internship with CHUMS instead. I think I can help more in this way and later I hope to study psychology.”

Fourteen-year-old Callum, of High Road, Beeston, was helped by CAMHS to deal with “anxiety, anger and confidence problems”.

He said it was useful to “meet people with the same problems and realise I am not alone”.

At Connect, he has particularly enjoyed the radio, magazine and filming work and it has made him feel “scared, happy and chuffed”.

Becky Bartlett is 14 and lives at River View, Shefford.

YOPEY has been praised by national leaders. Prime Minister David Cameron said YOPEY entries show determination and “resolve to make a difference”.

YOPEY was founded by former national newspaper journalist Tony Gearing, who said: “Young people who have mental health issues and have been helped by CHUMS or CAMHS are now giving back by being part of Connect. The group is an inspiration.”

The group is competing with nine other Bedfordshire finalists, aged 10-25, for over £2,000 in cash prizes put up by Atlas Converting Equipment, of Bedford, and the other YOPEY sponsors including Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Central Bedfordshire Council, and recruitment company Guidant Group.

The YOPEY charity has also received grants or donations from Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundation, the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Bedfordshire Police Partnership, Aldwyck Housing and others.

>> Entries have now closed but you can find out more information by visiting yopey.org