‘TRIUMPH Fest’ in Edinburgh was designed as an opportunity to bring together young people, policymakers and researchers to share learning about young people’s mental health. It was a two-day event designed and led by the TRIUMPH Youth Advisory Group. It involved presentations and stalls highlighting the work that young people have been doing, opportunities for lively discussions and workshops to develop young people’s research and skills in activism. 

We – Rach, Nat, Britt and Lorna – travelled up (by train) with a suitcase of resources and a bag full of snacks, to tell the world about the work we have been doing at CASCADE and Cardiff University. Everything we have been doing started from initial funding from TRIUMPH, where one of their priority areas was care-experienced young people’s mental health.

Our first project was led by Rhiannon Evans in DECIPHer with Britt (a member of CASCADE Voices) as a co-applicant. Britt led on the participation of young people through designing and carrying out interviews and analysing the data.

At the stall, people were really interested to hear about our findings and shared their experiences of mental health services shifting online, particularly during COVID.  Some took a copy of the THRIVE magazine from the Fostering Network that features our very own Rach! (she refused to autograph copies however)

Our second project, funded through the ‘Innovation for All’ grant at Cardiff University, was the theme of our interactive activities on the stall. Nat (a member of CASCADE Voices) is one of a group of young people who are designing a website to bring together mental health resources for care-experienced young people. We asked young people at the event what search terms they use when looking for support online, and which services they have found helpful when seeking mental health support.

On the train, we asked everyone for their highlights:

“Everything was a highlight! I tried something new – the chicken katsu curry – which I liked. I also really enjoyed the Headstrong [link here] workshop on the second day. The speaker shared his own experiences which was good, and challenged us to rethink what is ‘normal’.” – Nat

“I liked the first workshop by Debating Mental Health [link to website]. It was good to have a discussion, rather than just listening to others. It was a good opportunity to talk to others and share views, and think about how we can come from different perspectives but still agree about what we are trying to achieve. On the first day, I liked the presentation about Project Hope and how it has gone global, and the work with ethnicity and mental health that the Young Changemakers are doing. I also tried lots of new foods, and was proud of myself for even leaving home.” – Britt

“It was good telling people about our projects and the work that we are doing in CASCADE. I liked the last activity where we thought about what a mentally healthy society for young people would look like – although we mainly talked about needing to have a revolution! It was also really great to be able to give members of CASCADE Voices the chance to visit another area of the UK and see how our work fits into a bigger picture.” – Rach

“I was very happy Britt and Rach joined in a Ceildh dance with me, and even Nat couldn’t resist dancing when the Cha Cha slide came on. I was impressed by the range of youth-led projects that are going on, and the energy that everyone brings to addressing young people’s mental health. Everyone was coming from a different experience and perspective but all working towards a better place for young people in society. I was happy we got to represent some of the perspectives of care-experienced people, and that participants at TRIUMPH Fest were excited about the work we are doing at CASCADE.”  – Lorna

We were all impressed with the work that had gone into organising TRIUMPH Fest, and really keeping it youth led. It felt like a relaxed and safe space, without too much pressure. We really appreciated the quiet room, and the fidget toys to keep our hands occupied! Although we are all exhausted travelling back, we are excited to take some of the ideas and learning forwards, try out some of the activities, and follow up on the connections that we have made. 

It wasn’t all work though, we managed to explore some of Edinburgh too, admire the buildings, and even learn some grizzly histories!

Written By Rachael Vaughan,
Lorna Stabler
& CASCADE Voices young people