15 April 2019

On Wednesday 3 April, Ella Sowton, YMCA East Surrey’s Inclusive Youth Projects Worker, represented the local charity and their WAVES program at a roundtable discussion on mental health.

The event was organised by YMCA England and took place at YMCA South Ealing, who are part of the YMCA St Paul’s Group. It was attended by the Duke of Sussex as part of His Royal Highness’s campaign work around mental health. He visited the YMCA to learn more about the vital support it provides to young people.

The Duke joined YMCA England & Wales Chief Executive Denise Hatton and representatives from other YMCA projects to discuss the current climate of support for those with mental health difficulties and the personal and social issues that are often the underlying cause.

“His Royal Highness was very complimentary and particularly interested in how the peer-2-peer elements of our projects worked,” says Ella. “He commented on how vital young people’s voices are when it comes to discussing and tackling mental health issues.”

WAVES (Wellbeing, Awareness and Voice for East Surrey) is YMCA East Surrey’s youth group with a difference and is funded by Comic Relief and the National Lottery Community Fund. The project aims to raise awareness of mental health and provides support for young people 11-19 (up to 25 if they have a disability) across East Surrey in a positive way. As a group of young people, they work together to promote awareness and combat stigma, build friendships and offer peer education and support for friends, family and partners.

“I was able to talk to Prince Harry about WAVES in East Surrey and explain how the project provides young people with a safe space to explore their mental health, find support and campaign through social action activities for change around mental health issues for young people. I told him how the young people have been incredible in leading and making this project successful,” says Ella.

“It was a fantastic day and I am enormously grateful to YMCA England for inviting us to take part in the discussion.”

Speaking during the event, the Duke of Sussex said: “There continues to be huge progress in smashing the stigma that surrounds mental health, but let’s keep normalizing the conversation. Let’s keep reminding each other that it’s okay to not be okay, and to listen to each other. After all, how we think determines how we act, how we feel and how we treat ourselves and those around us.”

Anyone wanting to know more about YMCA East Surrey’s WAVES project, can contact Ella by telephone on 01737 222859 or email at ella.sowton@ymcaeastsurrey.org.uk.