CCSE were partners to the Open Mind Summit along with Future Paisley, Renfrewshire Leisure, Kibble. The second annual summit hosted by Create Paisley launched the day before World Mental Health Day. It explored the role of creativity and culture in improving mental health and wellbeing for children and young people. This year’s theme was ‘how can creativity help children and young people overcome isolation and loneliness’.

The event kicked off with a Keynote  from speaker, Steven McLeish, who provided a much needed reminder that if you have a pulse you have a purpose! CCSE’s Prof. Gayle MacPherson chaired a panel discussion with Jenni Mason (PACE), Sarah Falconer and Chris McDonald (Kibble), Lewis Hou (Science Ceilidh) and Rod Kippen (42nd Street). The discussion was an opportunity to showcase some great examples of the ways in which creativity can function in bringing communities together and helping overcome isolation and loneliness.

Kibble talked about their fashion show. Jenni asked about the ways in which people responded to lockdown to create different spaces for connection. Panellists discussed the ways they found that digital could bring opportunities – for example increasing reach of activities and connecting to artists across the world. Rod talked about the importance of meeting children and young people on their terms as anxiety is huge, not helped by young people being blamed for the situation, so it was important to ensure that they had a voice. He noticed that loneliness was a reason for individuals asking for support. Lewis finished with a reminder that the Covid:19 pandemic isn’t the only thing that’s happening in the world and normal wasn’t working for many young people. Other concerns include Black Lives Matters, climate emergency, political and economic upheaval and these are issues young people can lead us on.

I then led a roundtable to talk about defining loneliness and isolation in the context of children’s and young people’s experiences. Comments included how young people hated the term ‘we are all in the same boat’, that as people face many different challenges along the way a better quote would be ‘we might all be at sea, but we are all on different boats’. A lovely term was used to talk about what young people missed, they described ‘feeling touch-sick’, a feeling like homesickness for hugging and being in contact with friends.

After lunch we had the opportunity to attend two out of five workshops. As I miss my statistics and graphs I attended a workshop where Rebecca Dawson and  Chloe Fawns-Ritchie from the University of Edinburgh presented findings from TeenCovidLife an online survey of over 5,000 young people, looking at how the Covid:19 pandemic is affecting the health & wellbeing of young people. This showed that teens are more stressed than adults and within this, females were stressed more than males with most worrying topics being the future, such as applying to university and future exams. Apparently I missed some fantastic dancing, music making and inspirational stories in the other workshops!

The day finished with a panel conversation on how we ensure children and young people’s voices are central to shaping our future, chaired by Sarah Robertson panellists included:

Sara Preston (Covid-19 Young People’s Mental Health Hub at The Scottish Government),

Kevin Ditcham (Network & Delivery Manager, Democratic Society), Chloe Whyte (Youth

Champion, See Me Scotland), Erin Campbell MSYP and Allan Lindsay (Participation and

Co-design Director at Young Scot). Discussions centered around how to create the conditions that allow children and young people to take part in co-design of services, how to engage them as critical friends?

All together it was a great day, full examples of the multitudes of ways creativity can support in mental health and exchanging learning and experiences from adapting to the Covid:19 pandemic. Can’t wait till next year!