First-time voters put spotlight on mental health

Zach, Jess, Abdirisaq sat on benches outside their college
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Zach, Jess and Abdirisaq have been sharing their thoughts on the election

  • Published

A group of first-time voters from Bristol say they want the government to focus on mental health provision in the upcoming election.

Jess, Zach and Abdirisaq are all 18, and will be marking their ballot papers for the first time on 4 July.

As part of the BBC's Your Voice Your Vote campaign, they said policies that prevent young people from falling into gangs and leading a life of crime should be a priority.

They also said they want specific ideas from politicians, rather than vague sweeping promises.

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Jess wants the government to focus on funding mental health services

Talking about mental health, the students from John Cabot Academy in the Kingswood area of Bristol said it was a key issue for them.

Jess said: "One in four people struggle with mental health, so it's such a relevant topic to everyone.

"It really impacts young people... so it's really important it's covered more.

"There's a lack of NHS funding for mental health support - there's so many really long waiting lists for counselling and therapy - it's got to change and we really want it to change

Jess said she would like to hear what specifically politicians will do about the issue, to help young people understand what they are voting for.

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Zach believes people's mental health can have an impact on their future

Zach added: "There's been a lack of support... a lot of negative things happen in people's lives and a lot of it builds up to what happens in the future.

"It really impacts your social life - so maybe [causes] more knife crime."

Abdirisaq said: "I feel like it's not seen as an important issue, even though I would sometimes link it to crime and seeing as crime has become a really big issue in the last few years, I think there's a lot we could do to prevent it - prevention is better than the cure.

"We could be putting counsellors in schools to find students who could be vulnerable to mental health conditions and criminal environments.

"I want them [politicians] to make a convincing policy that would increase funding in schools to allow younger people to find other ways out instead of being picked up by gangs and violence."

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Abdirisaq said younger voters need to make their voices heard

On getting involved in politics, Jess said it was important that young people get switched on, saying: "It's the future of our country and our lives - what's more important than that?

"If we made our voices heard, we could make so much positive change to so many people.

"Some of my friends are 17 so can't vote yet, but are still very eager to get involved."

Abdirisaq added young people vote a lot less than older people do, saying: "That means politicians focus on policies targeting older age groups rather than younger people so young people don't get the attention of many of the policies in their manifestos.

"We lose out in the end, because we're not making our voices heard."

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