Teenagers challenge attitudes to mental health in Barking

PUBLISHED: 11:01 22 September 2015 | UPDATED: 11:20 22 September 2015

Yusuf, second from right, with his team in Barking town centre

Yusuf, second from right, with his team in Barking town centre


A teenager who overcame a speech impediment took to the town centre at the weekend to raise awareness of mental health issues.

Yusuf Uddin assembled a team of 11 students to set up shop near Barking town hall on Saturday to draw attention to issues such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression.

The 16-year-old chose to target the borough as one in four people in Barking and Dagenham has a mental illness.

“It went really well – I’m very happy with it,” Yusuf said. “We managed to get 50 people to follow us on social media and now we hope to send them information.

“We want to raise awareness about the inequality between physical health and mental health.

“If someone is in hospital and they are bleeding, they are treated first – even though the person next to them might be just as ill, only you can’t see it.”

The student, from East Ham, came to the project with a personal history of battling mental issues.

“When I was younger I had a speech impediment and it made it hard for me to make friends,” he explained.

“Eventually I overcame it – but it took me until the age of ten to start getting involved with other children.

“I only conquered it because of mental health support.”

Yusuf plans to keep up the momentum for his cause by heading to Cherry Orchard care home in Richard Ryan Place, Dagenham, next week.

“We’re going to have a party with the old people, with cakes and tea – it’s about helping them with their mental health issues,” he said.

“We want to talk to them as they don’t get that many visitors.”

And it could be an opportunity for the enterprising volunteer to use the dozens of balloons he intended to release on Saturday.

“We wanted the balloons to symbolise freedom to discuss mental health,” he explained.

“But the helium didn’t arrive in time. Whenever it happens, it will feel fantastic.”

Follow Yusuf’s project on Twitter at @mindwireuk

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