At the end of last year, we found ourselves in a second lockdown. With many of us facing the same issues we had been experiencing for months, and some even more, we decided to take this head on by starting a new programme called the Big Picture. This series helps us come together and gain perspective beyond the familiar obstacles that we all face: creativity block, struggles with mental health and problem solving. Through this new platform, we will be highlighting the great work and achievements of our inspirational partners – Helping us see the Big Picture.
The Sam West Foundation
Among teenagers, rates of depression & anxiety have increased by 70% in the past 25 years. Around 850,000 children and young people in the UK currently have a diagnosable mental health disorder, and over half of mental illness starts before the age of 14 years, with 75% of children developing it by the age of 18. These powerful insights into the severity of mental illness come from the Sam West Foundation. The Sam West foundation sets out to destigmatise open discussions around mental illness, and promote awareness, diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues and to advance the education of teenagers in music and the arts.
Founded in April 2018, the foundation was set up in memory of Sam West, a young man who took his own life at the age of 15, shortly after being diagnosed with clinical depression. In honour of Sam, his brother Ben and his family set up an online fundraising page with a £10,000 goal, hoping to donate the fund to charities who supported mental health. Little did Ben know, they would reach their goal in just one week, and receive more donations as the weeks passed. This overwhelming support helped kickstart what would become the Sam West Foundation.
As one of their first big initiatives, Ben organised the WalkToTalk event, a 10 day walk aimed to help raise awareness around mental illness in children and young adults. 450 volunteers walked 200 kilometers to Parliament, successfully raising £15,000. Bareska was delighted to support the Sam West Foundation, and their WalkToTalk campaign. We happily documented the WalkToTalk event, promoted their campaign, and showcased their inspiring commitment to this cause.
Talking Mental Health
Last month, the Bareska team sat down with Ben to discuss the importance of mental health. We looked at the stigma around talking about mental illness, ways to incorporate more awareness within the education system, and how to apply the same considerations in the workplace.
Historically, there is a negative stigma around openly discussing mental health, which can be found in our education system, as well as our workplaces. This is important to call out, as Ben noted “we can talk openly about physical illnesses, but we can’t talk too openly about mental illnesses.” The Sam West Foundation is tackling this issue by working towards changing the norms in our education system and workplaces, so that individuals are more aware and feel more comfortable about openly discussing mental health. In one brilliant example, Ben started a petition to make mental health first aid a compulsory part of teacher training with the goal to create a new teacher training standard. Until recent years, teachers in the UK did not receive any formal kind of training for mental health. Within a day, the petition received 60,000 signatures and has now climbed to over 300,000.
The Foundation also raises awareness around the diagnosis and treatment of mental health through supporting the music and arts in schools around the UK. Music and art can be a source of escapism, especially for children and teenagers who are finding it difficult understanding their own mental health. Also, for some children, participating in music and art is a way of communicating and understanding their feelings, in turn making it easier to diagnose a potential mental illness and support the child’s needs with the correct treatment.
The Sam West Foundation are applying the same considerations for mental health into the workplace. Ben is a “LinkedIn Change Makers” and uses LinkedIn’s features to instigate change, touching upon: mental health, LGBTQ+ inclusion, issues faced by the disabled community, and environmental awareness.
The Big Picture
Mental health is a significant part in all of our lives and needs to be nurtured, and more importantly, understood. We need to destigmatise vulnerability and promote open conversations. The Sam West Foundation is a brilliant example: their work shows us that as a group, when we are more supportive and vigilant about mental health, we can change its perception, helping each other along the way.
To Learn More and Find Ways to Help – Visit the Sam West Foundation Here