"We are the next generation" - A guest blog by Soph Hopkins

"We are the next generation." This motto carries me through life when I have the belief that young people are underestimated in today's world. My reasons for this? When I was 15 I was labelled as a failure. I was never believed. I was bullied. I was ill but at that time no one recognized it, and so, I left school being told I would get no where in life. I genuinely thought I was heading to heaven when I left school aged 16; I self-harmed and overdosed numerous times and ran away from home. The one thing to keep me going was my freedom to fight for the rights of young people.
The last four years have been a journey and I feel like a completely different person from my last day at school to where I am now. I have grown to build upon the negativity that I experienced for the first fifteen years of my life and although I still have negatives in my life, I am doing things about these because I want other young people to notice life is not all about what you learn at school. Schooling builds you for an academic world, not for life, which is full of positives and negatives. If I think back to the day of my last exam at school, I never would have imagined that four years down the line I would be a strong mental health activist locally,regionally and nationally. The last four years have created me; Soph Hopkins.
I have been a core volunteer at Youth Focus North East working on projects around well being, mental health and more recently dementia. I was a volunteer with 'Change Ur Mind' ran by Youth Focus and until June 2015 was in partnership with Young Minds. The opportunities that I have been offered through these two organisations has been phenomenal. I have been to London to represent the group at an awards, I have attended conferences, training, had an interview with BBC Women's Hour, BBC Newcastle Live and The Times. I have attended large events like Newcastle Upon Tyne Clinical Commission Group's who run a workshop in London. Another piece of work I have completed was with Change Makers UK (now the Foyer Federation) where I completed the leadership programme that allowed me to improve health services so that they met the criteria for 'Your Welcome.' I worked with the Gateshead Sexual Health Clinic and created leaflets, attended events where I could present our work and assessed other services. 
I have also been a volunteer with Youth Speak since it's beginning, it is a research mental health group for young people. This meant I helped create the group and design what we wanted it to be about. I feel I've really helped the group advance. I love the group and I feel supported so that I can really be myself. I've always found support from staff in the different projects I've worked on and the organisations I've worked with has been incredible. I suffer from a panic disorder, Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder so I do struggle myself sometimes, but the staff have always gotten me through it and never given up on me.

Recently, I have just started working on my own Social Stereotypes project with Fixers UK. I am so excited to show older generation that young people are not all criminals when wearing a hoody. I love working with Fixers UK and I believe that without my voluntary work, I wouldn't be here now. 
I'm a mental health sufferer. I'm a young person. A campaigner. I am the next generation. We are the next generation.
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