Young people reflect on Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental health

Mental Health Awareness Week

For Mental Health Awareness Week in May, the young people at Female Hackney, Account and Politically Black from the Young People and Families team at Hackney CVS came together to write about mental health awareness. Some wrote poems to express their mental health. Other contributors have written about the delivering Tree of Life in schools and how rewarding this has been.

What is mental health?

Mental health is about how we think, feel and act. Just like physical health: everybody has it and we need to take care of it. Mind has information on different types of mental health problems.

Did you know…

  • 16 million people in the UK experience a mental illness.
  • One in four adults will experience a mental illness at some point each year in the UK.
  • Three in four mental illnesses start in childhood.
  • 75% of mental illnesses start before a child reaches their 18th birthday, while 50% of mental health problems in adult life (excluding dementia) take root before the age of 15.
  • 10% of school children have a diagnosable mental illness. In an average class of 30 young people, three will have a mental health problem. Figures show 10% of children aged 5-16 have been diagnosed with a mental health problem.
  • 75% of young people with a mental health problem are not receiving treatment.
  • There has been a rise in the time young people are having to wait to receive treatment for complex mental health conditions, and children and young people with depression and anxiety are often not being identified or given help.

Poems by young people at Hackney CVS

Below are some poems from young people at Hackney CVS’s Young People and Families Team.

Poem by Chyna-Mae Whyte
Do you feel as if the world is on your shoulders?
Do you feel like you it’s hard for you in the morning’s because deep inside your mourning
Do you feel as if when you talk you’re a burden
So, when it comes to opening up you can’t be that person
Do you feel like when you’re getting somewhere?
It all comes crashing down and your back to square one
Feeling like you’re running a mile
But let me tell you that you are not the only one
Life is like book each chapter tells a story
So, life gets ahead look back on the past journeys
And bring it too now
Because somewhere down the line you will get there
Even if that time isn’t now
But in order to get there you’ve got to pick yourself up and try because
Your time starts now


Free from pain – The Training Ground,
Poem by Yolanda Lear

I pictured myself, on top of the world
After fighting all these demons that be holding me down
I had to go on a journey, to find this Undefeated Mind
And I ain’t saying I can’t be beaten,
I just won’t stay down
I ain’t perfect,
I make mistakes
But I am learning my lessons earned some blessings, through them now I am stressing much less
I am a testimony, to my creator
Call me evidence
No way I can’t go a day without him,
Because he’s so relevant
So, when I wake up in the morning
Have to give him thanks
Coz, he blessed me yet again
Gave me life, so I’m pushing on
My motivation is the pain from the one’s that’s gone
I got these scars deep beneath that no one knows
I had to learn how to self-heal
Coz, I got some wounds that can’t be treated in no hospitals
Had to realise it was trauma
I’ve been traumatised
Had to go through some battles, just to renew my mind
Had the bury the old me,
Just to step into some new shoes
Had to change my path,
Now I’ am on the right track
Can’t knock me of course
Confidence on lock, with this Undefeated Mind, I plan on continuing this journey till the end of my time.


Poem by Khallum Caller

Z-E-N, Embody Eternal Peace, ZEN,
Keep your Mental thirsty for the Knowledge we Seek, then…
Keep Static,

2020 collided like some Rapids,
Evaporated lives,
Why did the Outcome,
Turn to be so Tragic!

Switch That,
bounce back, Gymnast,
In the present, got this Gift Rap,
Full Presence, So Solid,
Not for 21 seconds,
Mentally aware is how I be Stepping!

Think forward,
Live Life, Sit Back,
Don’t Confer with no Chit Chat,
Hearsay never evolves to Fact!
Negativity, can’t involve me in that


Poem by King Ilunga

how could I be free from pain,
Not only is my pain physical
but the pain within the mind,
the mandem wonder how I am still here
like sometimes I ask myself why do they even care
but I realise it now
I’ve been through so much,
tried committing suicide so many times
I’m just a young boy, losing friend, family, loved ones
these things used to affect me mentally sometimes it still does
but I’m coping or so it seems.
I write song,
to help balance my emotions,
as I deal with this commotion
Some call it depression,
Say I suffer from anxiety
But really, it’s all to do with the traumas that I have buried inside me


My mental health poem,
by Shakira Atlanta Robertson

As a young black woman filled up with pain,
Ever since that day,
I haven’t felt the same,
it’s hard to explain,
Sometimes, when I express, it comes out as rage,
My mind is dull,
black and grey,
most times I feel like I’m in a cage,
So, in my own thoughts, with nobody to talk to about my crazy ways,
I need help,
I’m lost,
Trapped in a maze, I’m going insane!
This feeling I feel, can linger for days,
Sometimes I feel ashamed,
That can’t control the chemicals in my brain,
that make me this way.
It’s not every day it’s like that though,
sometimes I’m as bright and colourful as a rainbow,
So full of life, bringing joy wherever I go
I wish I can stay like that, but life takes its toll.
And it’s back to them old ways, I so commonly know.


Tree of Life – Growing Minds

Growing Minds aims to improve the emotional health and wellbeing of children and young people from African and Caribbean heritage (ACH) in Hackney. The programme focuses on working with young people during the important transition years from primary to secondary school and secondary school to adulthood.

Growing Minds now brings the Tree of Life Group to The City Academy! Tree of Life is a narrative based talking therapy approach delivered by trained Peer Leaders from African, Caribbean and dual heritage and supported by a WAHMS mental health professional.
The aim of the programme is to give space to young people from ACH backgrounds to believe in their own abilities, acknowledge their dreams and talk about difficult experiences in a safe environment.

Testimonials from Facilitators on Tree of Life
“Delivering tree of life at a range of different schools has not only boosted my confidence in facilitation but has also enabled me to have patience, empathy & a good understanding of how young people think & navigate life. There’s been some emotional intense moments when trees have been presented but the students are able to embrace their story and share it amongst their peers. I love being able to be a part of a growing process in order for young people to really dig deep in their roots & know who they really are, why they are the way they are and how essential their background is to who they are today. I love working with young people and they take to my character very well. My leadership skills have expanded & I’m looking forward to doing more inspiration Tree of Life sessions.”
Testimonial by Abigail Burland (Tree of Life)

“As a new facilitator of Tree of Life, I’d say it’s been a tremendous difference from what I usually do. It is incredible to be able to deliver to young students and have them open up about their culture and background. In addition to addressing any signs of safeguarding difficulties. The pupils are what I enjoy most about teaching. I enjoy engaging with them, learning from them, assisting them in understanding the substance of the Tree of Life, and seeing the connection between what they are learning and their lives.”
Testimonial by Angel Olusile (Tree of Life)

“It’s been eye-opening to deliver Tree of Life to pupils at school. It’s incredible to watch the students mature and realise how important their cultural and historical knowledge is. Using the students’ interests and skills to map out what they are typically good at and to guide their skill development and improvement. The pupils gain a greater awareness of themselves and their origins as a result of this experience. The delivery approaches adopted has been effective in encouraging students to think more critically.”
Testimonial by Emmanuel Akin (Tree of Life )

“Always remember you are braver than you think, stronger than you seem and loved more than you know”


If you have been impacted by this article, please do not hesitate to contact Monique Smith or Deji Adeoshun about the Tree of Life Workshops

If you feel you have mental health issues or know someone who does and don’t know where to turn for help, please read the list of resources below in City and Hackney.

Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.

Freephone 0808 801 0525
The Rethink Mental Illness Advice Service offers practical help on issues such as the Mental Health Act, community care and welfare benefits, living with mental illness, medication and care.

ELFT – East London NHS Foundation Trust
Freephone 0207 655 4000 (Switchboard)
ELFT provides a wide range of mental health, community health, primary care, wellbeing, and inpatient services to young people, working-age adults and older adults across City of London, Hackney, Newham Tower Hamlets.

Article written by Monique Smith – Programme Development Officer
Other content by Hackney CVS – Youth Leaders.
Photograph: Angel Olusile.