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Youth Voices

Reflections from a #TRIUMPHant Weekend with the Wolfson Centre

20 October 2022

Wolfson Centre Young People's Advisory (YAG) members Nathan and Tammie share their experience of representing the group at TriumphFest in Edinburgh.

Howdy! I’m Nathan, a member of the Young People’s Advisory Group (YAG) at the Wolfson Centre for Young People’s Mental Health and I’m going to share a few of my learnings from representing the centre at TriumphFest last weekend.

So, TriumphFest was a two-day gathering up in Edinburgh that was all about celebrating young people’s contribution to mental health research and activism. It featured a whole range of talks from fantastic people involved in youth-led projects across the country, interactive stalls showcasing great work, thought-provoking workshops, valuable discussions and, of course, free ‘scran’ (as they’d say in Scotland).

I simply can’t write this without acknowledging Triumph for such a well-organised event, and the fact that the young people involved with Triumph put the whole thing together is a huge win for youth-led co-production!

Two rows of young people in yellow tshirts on stage in a large venue

It really was a fantastic event that was epitomised by inclusivity, kindness, humour and a lot of fuel for the cogs in my brain. Though my favourite moment had to be the presentation that Tammie, a fellow Wolfson YAG member, and I delivered about what we do at the Wolfson Centre and why we do it.

Huge credit has to go to Tammie for keeping the audience on our side!

Amongst all the insightful discussion and thought, I managed to nail down a few reflections:

There are so many wonderful people and projects out there

Sometimes when working in the mental health sphere it can be quite difficult to stay positive, but it was incredibly encouraging to see that there were so many impactful projects and passionate people exploring so many different ways to address the same issues.

Dear academics, there is SO MUCH to gain from youth involvement

Not that I had any doubt about this before attending TriumphFest, but we young people are absolute experts in our own right. Our ability to have a positive impact on a whole range of wonderful research and activism projects really shone throughout both days.

I would urge any academic, policymaker or commissioner to consider youth involvement from the very earliest stage of a project to really ensure that their project hits the spot.

It goes way beyond just offering our experiences, I met loads of young people that were bursting with creative ideas to solve problems, loads that shared great insight on how to reach young stakeholders and loads more that demonstrated an in-depth awareness of the issues facing our generation today.

I hold the firm belief that anything being done to improve the lives of young people should be done with, through and by them – and TriumphFest has only cemented that belief.

In-person is still the best version!

Digital interaction does have its perks, but it would be very difficult to replicate the benefits of social interaction that I was lucky enough to receive last weekend. It meant that discussions flowed, enthusiasm beamed around the room and no one was on mute.

A young man and woman on stage in front of a large screen which reads Donate your mind to research

This allowed me to strike up a load of friendships and connections with a whole range of people, from experts by experience to those at the top of their game that are carrying the flag for young people’s mental health.

So if you’re a project lead or youth advisor and there is an opportunity for in-person engagement then by all means take it!

Of course, I wouldn’t have any reflections if it wasn’t for Emma, the Wolfson Centre’s Public Involvement Officer who pulled the strings to allow Tammie and me to attend TriumphFest and looked after us throughout.

I’ve grown in confidence, learnt a lot and developed some wonderful connections with like-minded people and for that, I’m extremely grateful. I also tried haggis, for which I’m slightly less grateful – but it was still an amazing experience nonetheless!

Tammie’s experience at TriumphFest

I went to Edinburgh to attend TriumphFest, a festival to celebrate young people’s contribution to mental health research. It was fully paid for by both Triumph and the Wolfson Centre, which included travel, accommodation and food costs!

The types of things we did there were make connections with professionals, watched presentations from a variety of young people involved in research (and did one of our own!), explored stalls and learned skills from workshops.

A screenshot of Nathan and Tammie's presentation which gives reasons as to why they take part in the YAG: supportive community, keep updated with trends and info, influence positive change, access training, use expereince to help others, other cool incentives

We enjoyed our spare time exploring Edinburgh, dancing with everyone at a ceilidh and even went to the zoo. It was a really fun experience.

I spent time with the other young person, Nathan, from our advisory group. We both got on really well and that friendship added a lot to the experience.

I also made connections with professionals and other young people that I would never have had without this experience.

I would definitely recommend others going out of their comfort zone to explore somewhere new.

I was nervous to get on the plane and to present but everyone was friendly and supportive. It was a kind and compassionate place.

I hope to do something like this again.


Nathan and Tammie are members of the Wolfson Centre Young People’s Advisory Group

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