Voting Rights. The right to vote in an election to decide who represents us in local, national & international issues. Except not everyone has this right to vote. For example, individuals under the age of 18 are not allowed to sign the ballot paper. Despite this, we should continue to amplify our voices when it comes to political issues.
There is no age requirement for petitioning your MP. There is no age requirement for keeping up with political affairs. There is no age requirement for campaigning and advocating for or against the issues that matter to you. There is no age requirement for making use of your voice to create social change.
All young people have a voice, and it’s time we make use of it. I say “we” because I, writer of today’s blog post, am one of you. I’m a 16-year-old male who, 12 months ago, wouldn’t have known how to contribute towards a campaign nor have the confidence to do so. In only a year, I’ve gained my voice and now advocate for mental health and wellbeing in particular - a topic that has made great strides in the last decade.
With that in mind, do you understand how to balance activism and your mental health? I’d imagine for most people, the answer would be “partially?”. For the most part, it’s not taught at schools, and it's not a typical discussion point when speaking to friends and family. As a result, you have no reason to understand how to balance these two priorities. So, let’s start with why.
Why would you want to take part in activism? The simple answer is that young people are the future. I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase thousands of times, yet... It’s true. The current ‘Baby of the House’ is Nadia Whittome, MP for Nottingham East. She was born in 1996, making her the only Gen Z member of parliament so far. We’re starting to elect Generation Z into Parliament, and I expect many more will be taking their seats in the next general election, Thursday 2 May 2024.
Campaigning for issues should be done with the mindset of ‘I can make a difference.’ If you don’t believe that, why bother? You may think another person will step in, highlight the issues, and use their voice for change - but this can't be guaranteed. You may be the only person in your local area in a position to use your voice, so you must speak up.
When campaigning, it’s of great importance self-care remains number one. You cannot advocate for others unless you help yourself first. This is especially true in the political environment where occasionally; division, ulterior motives, and parliamentary processes can be all-consuming.
If you do find yourself overwhelmed or frustrated, breathe and speak to friends, family, supporters, or even mental health professionals. Use an appropriate channel to vent, and discuss your hopes for the future.
Always remember, there is hope, even at the moment, where we collectively move out of lockdown and return to a state of normality. It’s inspiring to see the impact of young people across the United Kingdom and worldwide through this period. The Black Lives Matter movement. A-Level & GCSE. Climate change campaigns. Remember to keep in mind your achievements as you continue to move forward in confidence. Hold On, Peace Exists.
Potentially the most beneficial advice I can give you, to balance activism and mental health, is being respectful of others’ views and political preferences. Don’t be afraid to ask others to be respectful of yours, too.
Whether you’re just beginning to become politically involved, or whether you’re already an expert. Here are some things you can get involved in:
Our planet is struggling right now, but with your help, we can collectively make a difference.