Brent student wins grant to help teenagers with mental health issues

Pauline Blanchet

Pauline Blanchet - Credit: Archant

The traumatic experience of losing two close friends to suicide has spurred student Pauline Blanchet on to create a podcast for young people at risk of mental illness.

The 21-year-old, who is currently studying languages at SOAS, has been awarded £300 by the O2 Think Big Foundation to make a series of podcasts for teenagers and young people.

When two friends took their lives within the space of a year, Pauline turned to the Brent Centre for Young People, BCYP, in Winchester Avenue, Brondesbury Park, to pour out her feelings through its Adolescent Exploratory Therapy programme.

She now wants to go further and make podcasts to challenge the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

“I was really excited to get the award for the podcast. I am absolutely passionate about mental health,” she said. “Two of my friends committed suicide and after that I woke up. I was so aware suddenly of the fact that mental health is such a big deal in our lives.

“If I hadn’t had someone to speak to, and the Brent Centre’s support, I don’t know what I would have done. It was so important for me.”

Pauline will work with BCYP to produce six 30-minute podcasts, featuring interviews with the borough’s teenagers, and shorter three minute podcasts and videos for those with short attention spans.

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Topics include eating disorders among men and boys, social media and mental health, mental health ‘in the media’, at university and mental health and international development.

She added: “I think it’s so important to give the information to people in the right way, and it’s something that not enough people talk about.

“Growing up, I didn’t think mental health was important. It wasn’t something we talked about.

“People around us are suffering. People need to talk about it. Something needs to be done about it and it was really hard to understand what to do to make people feel better.

“A lot of young people say now, ‘oh, I have anxiety’ – it would be interesting to know how to deal with it as well.”

Dr Maxim de Sauma, CEO of the Brent Centre, said: “We are absolutely delighted that one of the young people we have helped has been given this opportunity to help raise awareness about mental health.

“Mental health amongst Brent teens is a growing concern and anything that can be done to support the young people of Brent is something we want to support.

“We look forward to working with Pauline to produce this project.”