We're extremely proud of our Children First Derby Youth Forum Group, who have been working hard on their adapted screenplay entitled, ‘Can You Hear Me?’ to get their voice heard about how mental health challenges can affect young people’s education.

Youth Forum Mentee and Scriptwriter, Emily, felt that young people with mental health issues were often misrepresented by schools and their voices were not being heard.

Working alongside fellow Children First Derby Youth Forum Mentees, and using their collective experiences, Emily’s screenplay aims to raise awareness of the struggles young people can face in schools. The script also includes helpful advice, highlighting mental health services which are available for young people who may need support.

Children First Derby Mentoring Coordinator, Kerreene Davidson, said:

All the referrals we are receiving for our Mentoring Service have experienced some form of mental health or emotional issues. This includes young people who have experienced bullying and threatening behaviour in schools, including those who have been victims of knife crime. This has had a detrimental effect on their wellbeing, with children left feeling frightened and isolated and some turning to self-harm. Their education has been severely impacted and, in some cases, the young person affected has had to change schools. More support is needed, and we wanted to help our Youth Forum Members increase awareness of the issues being faced, to get their voices heard, and to help other young people who are struggling to get support.

After our recent successful collaboration with QUAD, Derby which resulted in the filming and screening of the Children First Derby Drama Group’s play, ‘Behind the Mask,’ Mentoring Coordinator, Kerreene, approached Children and Young People’s Curator (Digital), Abbie Canning, and KidsQUAD Film Workshop Leader, Chris Bevan, to see if they could help adapt Emily’s stage play into a short film.

Through funding from BBC Children In Need, QClub at QUAD were able to support this ambition.

Working over a two-day period towards the end of the recent school holidays, the Youth Forum Mentee group were invited to QUAD where they were introduced to the film-making process which included, working in the QUAD Gallery to bring the script to life, a demonstration in special effects make up, set design – creating a classroom in the digital studio, learning about filming techniques, and learning about digital design work.

Passionate about introducing more young people to film, Film Director and Creative Director of film production company YSP Media, Chris Bevan, said:

It’s been a pleasure to work with the Derby Youth Forum Group, giving them a valuable introduction to the visual arts and film. I’m pleased that the support from QClub at QUAD enables young people to experience something they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to do, whilst also helping them film such a worthwhile project to get their voices heard.

QClub at QUAD is a BBC Children In Need funded project that helps vulnerable and marginalised young people aged 5-18 years.

Abbie Canning, CYP Curator said:

Many of the young people we work with have struggled to get the support they need, finding the waiting list for CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) too long. It’s been fantastic to work with the Derby Youth Forum, helping them to express themselves and highlighting other services which are available to help young people who are struggling with mental health and emotional issues.

We would like to extend a very special Thank You to Abbie and Chris for all their hard work and support throughout this initiative.

The filming and upcoming screening of the play will enable the Youth Group’s message to reach a much wider audience than would have been possible with a one-off live performance.

The screening is set to take place at QUAD towards the end of October, where local councillors, key workers, teachers, social workers, and local dignitaries will attend.

The film will also be sent out to schools to help raise awareness and ensure the young people’s voices are truly heard where it matters most.

Once screened, we will be posting the film out across our social media channels for everyone to see.

In the meantime, we will leave you with a powerful poem, written by Mentee Youth Forum member, Victor, to support the script:

We have voices, and on social media our voices are louder than ever.

School should be a place where we come to feel safe. But it’s almost never.

You try to reach out for help, hands stretched out till you can no more.

No one wants to listen you’re a bore.

So you close in and continue with this mental war.

The Children First Derby Mentee Youth Forum group was formed in 2018 to represent all the young people from the charity’s Mentoring Service and comprises a select group of past and present mentees and also includes young people who are on the waiting list to join the Mentoring programme.

The Youth Forum meet quarterly, and the young people have their say on how Children First Derby’s Mentoring Services are delivered - voicing their thoughts and ideas, and actively shaping what the charity does.