ALISON WHITE

So here I am. As I sit at the airport, a moment of reflection: I have this amazing opportunity for the second time in my life! The build up to the 2016 One Young World Ottawa Summit has been such a busy time for me that I have barely allowed myself the time to reflect on how fortunate I am to be returning for a second year.

When I attended the 2015 Summit in Bangkok, I had no idea what to expect. I found myself comfortable with my political and social awareness and thought that the days ahead would be a pleasant experience. The days were pleasant, however I was quickly flung into one of the most eye-opening, emotional and thought-provoking period of my life. The few days I spent attending the One Young World Summit really did change my outlook on life.

In the media, we hear of the troubles facing Palestine and Lebanon and in passing we casually discuss the reasons behind it, but as a 26 year old how do you get the exposure to hear first-hand how the people living in that area are impacted and how they feel?

Day to day “Terrorism” and “ISIS” are terms commonly used in conversation, but how many Millennials understand the reasons behind radicalisation, how many of us discuss terrorism and can only relay what we have heard in the media?

Climate change, please not again! But do you understand the emotions of a fellow human whose family has inhabited Pacific Islands for hundreds of years yet is now facing the thought of becoming a Migrant due to his homeland being submerged?

Yes, this is the reason why my views and feelings were so impacted by my short stay in Bangkok. I heard first-hand the experiences of people who were impacted by all of these issues, I felt honoured to be in the audience.

This year I was part of the team who selected 15 colleagues to attend this Summit. As I read through my colleagues essay’s I am impacted by their personal experiences and their drive to make a difference to the world we live in. Without attending this conference they already understand that we have one earth, we are one species and the need to work together peacefully for the good of our humanitarian future. I am excited knowing the insight this conference will provide to invigorate their passion further.

Mental Health is a plenary subject for the 2016 Summit, Taboo? I should hope not! This subject is extremely close to my heart, my father suffering with Bi-Polar Disorder from the age of twenty-five until his death a few years ago. My father had his first breakdown at the time he was studying for his PHD in Organic Chemistry, his life thereon was challenging despite the love of a magnificent wife and six successful children. During the twenty-one years we spent together I experienced first-hand the extreme high’s; spending money like there was no tomorrow, sleeping for 4/5 hours per night, “blasting” classical music all day long, aggressively challenging others in conversation to the extreme low’s; spending the majority of three months bed bound emerging only once a week when my mum made him get a bath, then for the times he wasn’t bed bound it was a continuous cycle of lying on the couch not wanting any engagement, finally my dad decided he had had enough and attempted to commit suicide by overdosing on his medication.

Yes, Mental Health is real and it is a growing problem that has not had the attention it deserves. Many of us are impacted, the victims of the illness or the victims of the struggle to support those who are unwell. Mental Health is not just Bi-Polar Disorder or Schizophrenia it encompasses Depression and Anxiety also. 

Mental Health is a growing problem, facing not only the UK but all people across the world.  I really can’t wait for this plenary session to finally discuss Mental Health, in particular the impact of social media, the global variations for treatment options and solutions to this ever growing crisis.