Our Generation’s Epidemic

By Kirsty McCahill, MSYP, Scottish Youth Parliament


It’s October 2015, and the membership of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) have just voted to make young people’s mental health the subject of our next national campaign. There’s a distinct excitement in the air, as we’re all aware that we’re going to tackle something really important, and something that the young people of our communities care about.

Fast forward nine months, and we are now equipped with the views and voices of young people, to advocate for real change. Our generation’s epidemic is our research report on young people’s awareness and experience of mental health information, support, and services in Scotland. The research survey was completed by 1,453 young people, and the consultations were led by Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) between February and April of this year. The report fills a gap in the research market by focusing on young people’s experience and awareness of mental health information, support, and services. MSYPs consulted with young people from every single one of Scotland’s 32 local authorities, making our report one of the largest of its kind.

SYP now has a real mandate to advocate for young people’s mental health in Scotland. The research revealed that nearly 3 out of 4 young people don’t know what information, support, and services are available in their local area, and it shows just how much work is needed to change the stigmas and conversations around mental health in our country.

Our report includes 11 recommendations, based on what young people have said they need, and are aimed at local and national governments, education bodies, and health care providers to improve young people’s mental health. Over the next few months, it will be the mission of my fellow MSYPs and I to spread this report and its messages as widely as possible, ensuring that the voices of young people are well and truly heard. After all, we are the Scottish Youth Parliament. This is what we do.

Our generation’s epidemic takes its name from a quote from a survey participant, and it stands as testament to why we are tackling the issue. In a day and age where 1 in 4 people are likely to experience a mental health issue, it’s never been so important that societal understanding is solid, and services and support are of a standard second to none.

So, what really is our report? It’s a mandate. It’s proof. It’s a call for change. It’s a chance to advocate for the rights of the suffering, the confused, and the well-being of every single young person in Scotland. This report will not just sit on the shelves, because we are SYP and we want the best for the young people of Scotland.

Kirsty McCahill, MSYP, Scottish Youth Parliament

Kirsty McCahill is a Trustee of the Scottish Youth Parliament who holds the portfolio for Advocacy and Campaigns. She has been an MSYP for Ayr for three years, and first stood as an MSYP to ensure that the young people of her area had a clear voice and fair representation. Since then she has been the Convener of the SYP Equalities committee and has twice been elected to the Board of SYP as a Trustee.

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