Paul McKenzie took seven young people over the half term and embarked on a massive film project to highlight the need for more focus on mental health, they didn’t use knives, they didn’t need guns, all that was needed was a passion to change the narrative and a drive for change.
The young people chose to address the mental health issue. So many young people are displaying early signs of mental health challenges and it is this that has inspired the making of the short film SICK. To reduce stigma, mental health needs to be seen as something that concerns us all. Using film as a platform offers a chance to bring mental health into the spotlight and raise awareness on the indicators that young people can identify with and seek help.
Discussing a film can help people with mental health problems to broach difficult subjects. Screenings of our films that focus on mental health are used to foster discussion, create empathy and reduce stigma
The Short film SICK went on to be screened exclusively at the National Gallery, making history in black history month by being the first short screenplay to ever be screened at the National Gallery. It has also been selected for awards at other festivals across the globe.
The latest project enables more young people to access training and experience in media and film, with the emphasis of accrediting these workshops for young people that find it hard to access mainstream education. These workshops will promote and enable young people to become more confident in many areas of their lives.
Paul has five sons and understands the need to be congruent in his approach to helping other young people to overcome challenges they may be facing. Paul remains proud to have contributed to some major changes in the way we address specific issues that challenge communities, especially the issues that affect our youth.
A ground-breaking ‘reverse mentoring’ pilot that saw three teenagers mentor a trio of the Met’s top women officers was celebrated at a special event at New Scotland Yard yesterday [Wednesday 25 August].
Three young women from disadvantaged communities in different London boroughs joined together with their mentees and organisers The Girls’ Network to reflect upon the unique experiences they have shared during the programme and exchange pledges going forward.
The Met teamed up with the national mentoring charity Girls’ Network in February 2021 to launch the pioneering six-month initiative. It aimed to help the police get closer to the communities they serve and gain fresh perspectives on key issues like knife crime, domestic abuse and representation within the workforce.
It has provided mentors Farheen, Ishrat and Yasmin with a chance to represent concerns from their local communities directly to key decision-makers in different areas of the Met, in a bid to influence both the actions and attitudes of the senior female officers involved.
The trio are from Tower Hamlets, Newham and Brent respectively – all communities that experience one or more of the issues that were explored during the monthly sessions with their mentees, Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Amanda Pearson and Dr. Alison Heydari Commander Frontline Policing.
All three teenagers are passionate about helping other young people within their home environments realise that there are a wealth of opportunities on offer for those who are dedicated to creating a better future for themselves.
Ishrat, whose family emigrated from Bangladesh in the 1970’s, begun her sessions wanting to help change the perspectives of both the police and young people on the rate of ‘stop and search’ among under-represented communities, whilst also reducing the numbers carrying knives.
She and DAC Pearson now plan to launch an awareness-raising campaign through creating a series of video testimonials focusing on the lived experiences of individuals who have been directly affected by the issues, and hope to set up an advisory board on stop and search. Part of Ishrat’s journey involved meeting with the chief superintendent with responsibility for the policing of Newham, her home borough.
The 18-year-old said: “I live in an area where young people feel like there are no opportunities for them to succeed, so they get caught up in the local gang culture and fall into a life of violence and crime. I really want to change that and help other young people realise that there is an abundance of life choices out there for them.
“This initiative is so important for my local community right now. With opinions of the police at their lowest among young people, now is the time to act. I just hope it can help make a difference.”
Ishrat’s mentee, DAC Pearson said: “I feel privileged to have been involved in such an exciting and bold initiative. Ishrat is clever, strong and inspiring, and has prompted me to explore professional and cultural issues that I otherwise may not have truly understood. Our conversations often start with one topic and wind on through many others, leaving me feeling enriched and more learned each time we talk.
“Reverse mentoring has given me the opportunity to have valuable conversations with someone who would ordinarily be out of my sphere of contact. The experience of the dilemmas that pop up for Ishrat’s peer group, coupled with the change that I, as a more senior officer can effect, is an invaluable combination in an organisation like the Met. I have been able to access an entirely new perspective, and I have the experience and operational knowledge to know how to apply that perspective in a professional environment.
“Though Ishrat and I are different in many respects, our common goals of helping and empowering our community have tied us together. I have every confidence Ishrat will achieve her ambitions, and I have no doubt that my time with her will help me to achieve my own.”
Farheen, 18, an aspiring lawyer from Tower Hamlets, took on the theme of domestic abuse to explore with her mentee AC Ball. She is keen to raise awareness of the problem, in particular with relevance to male victims and under-reporting, and signpost victims to the sources of support available.
She and AC Ball are near completing hosting a series of podcasts on domestic abuse as part of her commitment to highlighting the issue. These have all been recorded at Scotland Yard with guests from relevant external organisations, and will be released later this year.
Farheen, a strong advocate for female empowerment in general, said: “I am so honoured to be supporting such an important campaign. This type of crime is such a difficult issue to tackle but I feel passionately about helping people who are experiencing domestic abuse of any kind, to encourage them to realise their worth and to empower them to understand that they can change their situation.”
AC Helen Ball said: “Mentoring is often thought of as a relationship where a more experienced person offers guidance to someone in the earlier stages of their career. The point is, of course, to equip those less experienced people with the know-how to help them progress quickly, but done well, mentoring also provides support and help in making choices – perhaps in relation to how the mentee can manage competing demands on them or how to say no to more senior people.
“Farheen has supported me to learn about communicating better and has given me insight into the approaches and interests of a woman far younger than me. I hope that, with more senior officers such as myself taking part in this initiative in future, the Met can continue to learn from all of London’s communities.”
Commander Heydari was mentored by Yasmin, with the pair exploring themes such as ‘white-collar’ crime as well as wider issues of gender inequality and racial profiling within crime.
She added: “I have thoroughly enjoyed and feel honoured to have been part of an innovative way of mentoring being paired with Yasmin, a really thoughtful and inspiring young person. We spent time discussing a variety of issues and subjects, providing valuable insight into what matters to young people.
“My mentor has given me a lot to think about and seeing things from a young woman’s perspective has enriched my view of how the police can more effectively collaborate with young communities to keep them safe and build trust. Many thanks to Yasmin for her time and for sharing her views on contemporary issues.”
This latest initiative from the Girls’ Network is just a small part of the work it carries out. The charity connects 14-19-year-olds from the least advantaged communities across England with mentors and a network of professional female role models – all with the aim of inspiring and empowering them to succeed in their life ambitions.
It should come as a surprise to no one that the Internet can be a dangerous place. Sure, the Internet allows you to access information at your leisure and connect with people in faraway places easily; however, you never know who may try to access you for harm. These dangers are magnified when children utilize the Internet, as they often are not aware of warning signs of danger. Children can easily stumble upon fake news, pornographic content, scams, and seedy individuals, even when their voyage into the cyber world began with an innocent search. Nowadays, the Internet is easily accessible to people of all ages, especially as smartphones and tablets continue to increase in popularity.
HOW TO PROMOTE CHILD INTERNET SAFETY
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a federal law designed to protect those under 13 years of age on the Internet. Websites must follow specific rules and privacy policies. While the government wants to protect children, parents can take steps at home as well. Before allowing your child to access the Internet, here are some things to keep in mind:
ALWAYS SUPERVISE THEIR ACTIVITY
First, make sure that you always have access to your child’s computer. Ideally, young children should only be able to access computers in common areas of the home. Although older children may require personal laptops for school, do not allow them to set their own passwords for the computer operating system, social media sites, or e-mail. Check in with your children frequently about their interests and the websites they are visiting or posts they are “liking” or making online. Review their webpage history through their Internet browsers. If you see something that gives you pause, talk to them about it. If you notice cyber bullying, contact the school or local law enforcement authorities. If you see that your child is cyber bullying others, discuss why that is unacceptable and inappropriate behavior, and restrict their computer and Internet access accordingly.
TEACH THEM TO PROTECT THEIR PRIVACY
Many children are easily trusting and do not understand the full consequences of sharing information online. If you start teaching children while they are young, they will be better prepared to resist sharing certain information from an early age. Make sure your children know:
Never provide sensitive information, like their name, address, phone number, e-mail address, password, school name, nor any pictures to anyone for any reason without your permission, and never agree to meet up with anyone they meet online. Advise them that they never know who they may be talking to online, and dangerous people from the Internet who pretend to be children may try to find them and hurt them.
Never open e-mail messages from people they do not know. Advise them that certain e-mail messages contain viruses that may harm the computer or steal certain information contained on the computer.
Never respond to hurtful or disturbing messages. Advise them that if they see a hurtful or disturbing message, to let you know immediately.
The Internet is mainstay in our society, so it makes sense to teach our children how to access such a crucial resource safely. If you suspect that your child may be in danger through Internet usage, contact your local law enforcement authorities immediately.
Yesterday Wednesday 29 September saw the launch of the third Ben Kinsella Trust exhibition. Based in Barking, the exhibition is the largest of the three and explains the tragic and heartbreaking story of Ben Kinsella. It also hosts pictures and stories of other local teenagers who have lost their life to knife crime- Champion Ghanda 17 years old, Duran Kajiama 17 years old and Jody Chesney 17 years old.
Present at the event in Barking was Champion’s mum Peguy who runs All Champions Charity to support other bereaved families. Peguy is a very inspirational lady who has dedicated her life helping other families.
Beatrice Mushiya Duran’s mum was there to give her support to families of knife crime alongside Peter Chesney who was also at the event.
Supported by Barking and Dagenham Council, Councillor Darren Rodwell Leader of the council addressed the large crowd to introduce everyone to the evening’s events.
The Ben Kinsella exhibition aims to educate young people on the dangers of knife crime and help them to make positive choices to stay safe. The workshops follow the journey of both the victim and the offender through a series of unique and immersive experiences to show young people how choices and consequences are linked.
Their workshops change young people’s attitudes to knife crime; debunking the myth that carrying a knife will protect you. They strengthen peer values; ensuring young people give better advice to each other and challenge peers who are carrying (or thinking of carrying) a knife.
They currently have two exhibitions, which are based in Finsbury Library in Islington and in the National Justice Museum in Nottingham.
Ben Kinsella was a 16-year-old boy from Islington who was stabbed to death in a horrific act of senseless violence on 29 June 2008.
Ben had been out at a local pub to celebrate the end of his GCSEs with his friends. On their way home, he and his friends realised they were being followed by three older teenagers. Scared and worried, they decided to run home.
But the older teenagers chased after them. They were seeking revenge for an altercation in the club that had taken place earlier that evening. Ben and his friends had absolutely nothing to do with the altercations, but when the older boys caught up with Ben, in an entirely unprovoked attack, they stabbed him to death.
Also present at yesterday’s launch was DC Anoushka Dunic the East Area Police Gangs Engagement Officer who does fantastic work across East London helping parents and teenagers, PC Michael Wallace from Kick off@3, who does amazing work with teenagers across London, Quinton Green, the very talented spoken word artist who works with many educational organisations helping teenagers and Shirley Jackson the founder of Youth Unity who supports teenagers across east London.
This is a very moving exhibition that highlights the horrors of knife crime and the choices we make and the consequences they provide.
Youth Unity are working hard in the UK to change the story of young people and help them with their issues. We spoke to them to find out more.
Youth Unity CIC is an innovative space for youth empowerment, and a non-profit organisation established to provide effective help and support to vulnerable young people and adults affected by group violence (gangs), drugs and other forms of exploitation such as human trafficking, child sexual exploitation and extremism.
With offices in Kent, London and Essex, the organisation works successfully in close collaboration with statutory organisations, commissioned services and charities, by offering workshops, projects and training for young people and professionals.
In this piece, Youth Time features its contribution for young people’s wellbeing by speaking to Paul McKenzie, Youth Unity’s Head of Communications.
Introducing Youth Unity
At the beginning of our conversation, McKenzie talks about the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in their activities, whereas further in the interview, he sheds light on their key activities and the 4Ps (Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare).
“With the current rise in serious youth violence and the impact of COVID-19, we created a dedicated hub for the overall wellbeing of young people from all ethnicities,” he explains, whilst adding that the organisation challenges the narrative portraying young people as bad.
Youth Unity’s focus is early intervention and early identification of those ‘at risk’ from gangs, serious youth violence, criminal exploitation and associated vulnerability strands.
To better understand this, McKenzie adds that this is something consistent with the Government’s 4P approach and contained within the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy.
“This strategy effectively coordinates national joint working to reduce the level of serious and organised crime affecting our local communities.
“It uses the framework often referred to as the 4Ps and strengthens a partnership approach to safeguarding our most vulnerable and tackling offenders.”
Prevent, Prepare and Protect
As McKenzie explains, their key objectives are consistent with this strategy and approach:
Prevent: To stop people becoming gang members, being exploited or taking part in violence.
Prepare: To effectively mitigate risks through preventative measures and innovative, creative media early intervention. With the aim to kick start conversations, build resilience and inspire change around complex social issues.
Protect: To strengthen adults and young people by building their emotional and cognitive (thinking) resilience, better enabling them to ‘say no’ to gangs, violence, drugs, crime and other forms of exploitation and vulnerability themes.
Youth Unity works with schools, colleges, police forces, social services, LSCBs, charities, borough councils, county councils, private businesses, national government agencies to deliver productions, workshops and training for young people and adults across the United Kingdom.
“We feel the pandemic has had a massive impact on youth. With this in mind, we set out to deliver specific online workshops that are interactive and informative for all.
“We selected several professionals to work alongside parents and young people.”
The workshops raised awareness and helped to enable participants to understand the early signs of a mental health issue.
“We are also delivering valuable support to young people challenged with grooming and county lines.
“There is an increase in the deliberate manipulation of young people, and we feel that more than ever before, we need to inform young people of the dangers etc,” McKenzie says.
The workshops explore topics such as criminal exploitation, social media misuse, grooming, building positive relationships, and the law.
Youth Unity also offers advice, and guidance to many families and individuals affected by Criminal Exploitation and grooming.
“Although because of a lack of funding, we are only available via telephone. Soon we will include a mentoring provision that will enable more one-to-one work with young people and their families.”
GroomSafe has recently worked on a film project with several young people at risk of Criminal Exploitation and serious youth violence.
“During the pandemic we could create a short film that addresses manipulation and grooming, we engaged young people in basic film making and editing, to produce William an awareness film to help others facing the challenges above.”
“We have entered the short film into several film festivals, we are expecting outstanding success on this. We also intend to duplicate this process to produce another short film about online abuse.“
To date, McKenzie goes on, Youth Unity believes young people need advice and awareness to enable them to make more informed decisions in life.
“By actively raising this awareness and reaching out to young people on a grassroots level, we effect the change that they need to help avoid exploitation and grooming,” he concludes.
About Paul McKenzie
Paul McKenzie is Professional Public Speaker, Life Coach/NLP Master Practitioner, Film Director/Producer and Author.
Paul has enjoyed changing the lives of hundreds of people over the last 20 years.
Through his filmmaking he has developed a platform designed to provide a space for individuals within the community to express their brilliance, speak their truth and encourage the lives of others.
This is achieved by producing short powerful films that highlight specific issues and capture the unique essence of everyday people’s stories, which are now award winning.
These films and documentaries are shared internationally and contain inspirational, thought provoking material, and reaches out to the heart of the community.
Paul remains proud to have contributed to some major changes in the way Youth Unity addresses specific issues that challenge communities, especially the issues that affect the youth.
Follow Youth Unity on Facebook and Instagram to find out more about the company and support their work.
a2ndVoice are a small voluntary support group run by parents/carers living and caring for a child or adult on the Autistic Spectrum, raising awareness and understanding from different perspectives, outreaching also to the Africa, Caribbean, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities (ACAME) and Dual Heritage Communities in tackling the taboos and myths around Autism.
Cultural Diversity is the key in making a difference amongst all individuals, communities, faith groups and organisations by bridging the gap between parents and professionals with support by Autistic Specialists and Autistic Adults.
Our aim is to:
To inspire, to empower, to share information and build a network in providing ongoing support pertaining to the wellbeing and lifestyle for parents & carers with children or adults on the Autistic Spectrum.
To provide information and support for siblings and peers.
Supporting girls/young women on the Spectrum who are under-represented and disadvantaged.
Pre-natal, autistic mothers and post-natal support workshop
To provide support for fathers and single fathers to share similar experiences together with male workers also.
Raising awareness within the BAME communities to break down cultural barriers and prejudices.
To provide a support service within the school setting, which outreach the hard to reach parents/carers who maybe in denial and/or lacking understanding of the condition.
To increase awareness by all means that our local community and businesses will lead to more personal involvement, understanding and more cultural, educational and social activities, which will create a better community and a better place for those living with Autism and other, related hidden conditions.
To provide information, resources and tailor made packages for Faith Groups and Establishments.
Working in partnership with individuals and organisations that deal with Youth Services within the Criminal Justice System.
If you are interested in making a difference, please contact us:-
Youth Unity has been working with CODE1 for the last year and are in talks on how we can work in collaboration to deliver more amazing projects
Code1 Community Group, are committed to investing their expertise and resources in order to further achieve their causes. They aim to support community members in a variety of ways and measuring our success not by monetary size, by more qualitative measurements such as the scale and effectiveness of our efforts.
Paul McKenzie is part of the Youth Unity team was part of this amazing project and held a series of workshops working with young people who have mental health challenges. Throughout these workshops Paul coached these young people through expressing their thoughts and feelings through art the outcome, this incredibly deep and thought provoking content.
Well done to South London and Maudsley NHS for driving such an important topic and giving these young people a voice.
Keep up to date with what is going on at Youth Unity
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