Young minds are the future of our communities

Iain McPherson

Last week, Children’s Mental Health Week kicked off with the theme of ‘Express Yourself’. While events and celebrations were held virtually this year, the sentiment of caring for our young people’s mental wellbeing is of high priority. Taking a long-term view, children and young people are the future of tomorrow – they are our colleagues, friends, family members and partners. While advocating for mental health has always been a core cause of ours at Countryside, we realise that there are pressures that can have a crippling effect on the minds that will help us to shape tomorrow.

This is an opportunity to acknowledge how important it is to safeguard the future of our communities and societies by nurturing young people. As it is commonly known, the first five years of a child’s life are the most influential in terms of behaviour and learning, so it is fundamental to ensure there is substantial support in place for every child and young person to get a good start in life. Our Communities Fund, which was launched a year ago, has already  supported infants, children and young people from all walks of life. In addition to the £44,000 donated to mental health organisations across the UK, over £35,000 has also been pledged to schools, youth groups and charities such as Future Youth Zone, KidsInspire, BabyBank and the Children’s Trust; and we know we must continue our work here.

To honour our commitments, it has also been a privilege to be a sponsor of NSPCC’s Unforgettable Days campaign to support Childline this year. Childline provides a service to young people across the UK suffering from isolation, abuse or their own debilitating worries amongst a magnitude of other issues. As a charity, the organisation is reliant on donations and we wanted to lend our support by sponsoring Childline’s functions for the entirety of today to help keep everything from its website to the call centres in motion. Last week we were privileged to have supported over 650 young people, where children were able to talk about whatever they needed to, from mental health concerns, to family relationships, suicidal thoughts and feelings. Knowing that many children, who reached out to Childline on the day and found a listening ear, a way forward and took back control, is so encouraging, especially during such times of crisis.

Our passion at Countryside has and will always be to create communities in every sense of the word. While the business of what we do is to create physical places to live, work and visit, we also recognise that creating communities goes beyond bricks and mortar and involves cultivating shared bonds that link people together.

Just as we have done in our Essex heartlands, we have grown from the roots up and many young people have helped us get to where we are today by not just helping to create communities across the country but be part of our own community of colleagues too. Young people need to be nurtured from the very beginning in order to fully blossom. Our appreciation for young minds and voices can never be side-lined when many children face daily hardships that prevent them from reaching their full potential. Their contribution of new ideas, fresh talent and a different perspective on life is valuable to every community and it is the only way in which we can progress for the better.

With almost an entire year of social distancing being an everyday norm, this idea of communities beyond what we can see in front of us has never been more important. We know we have only started making a dent in this crucial issue, but we strive to continue inroads, cherishing the future of our communities for generations to come.