Young people in Cumbria turned £1million from the Big Local programme into an impactful mental health advocacy campaign.

Located in one of the most deprived regions of the UK, Ewanrigg, far removed from Westminster's influence, put the grant from the National Lottery Community Fund and Local Trust to use, bolstering its insufficient health services.

The move was particularly momentous for the town's youth, grappling as they were with the serious issue of inadequate support for mental health and the bleak prospect of social mobility in an area marked by rural isolation, limited jobs and training opportunities.

Faced with these grim realities, by 2017, young people, disillusioned with the extended wait for mental health help, decided to lead by example.

Aa a result the We Will youth mental health campaign born.

Focused on tangible change, the youth decided to begin with careful research, engaging with a wide cross-section of society from doctors to school staff to community leaders.

Their efforts yielded impressive results, culminating in an invitation for the We Will campaigners to meet with then Mental Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price MP and Shadow Minister Barbara Keeley MP in Westminster in May 2019.

They agreed to accept this invite only if a young person chaired the meeting.

One member, Rebecca, a student mental health nurse and 21-year-old chair of Ewanrigg's community hub The Centre, said: "10 years ago, people would never have talked so openly about mental health."

The challenges facing the community were huge.

High rates of child poverty, coupled with poor access to transport and services, plagued the area.

For instance, the nearest A&E is a 30-minute drive away, a harsh reality that came to light when a We Will member having a mental health crisis was told to go to A&E on an out of hours’ answerphone message, despite public transport not running.

Addressing these realities, We Will turned its advocacy into action, funding qualifications in Youth Mental Health First Aid for more than 300 individuals, including parents, teachers, and community workers.

A noteworthy win was helping a local secondary school secure funding to train a staff member from each West Cumbria secondary school as a qualified Youth Mental Health First Aid Trainer.

They also tried to combat the stigma around youth mental health by writting and producing several short films on youth mental health, which led to Prince William and Kate Middleton sharing their 'BOY' film with their 15 million followers.

While the We Will campaign has ended, its impact continues.

To gain further insights into We Will's journey, they have been featured in an episode of Local Trust's community power podcast, which showcases stories from Big Local areas across England.