Big Conversation to help young people with mental health

A group of young people, dressed in vibrant clothes, hugging each other from behind on a sunny day, symbolizing support

Over 250 teenagers from schools across Kent and Medway will get together for this year’s Big Mental Health Conversation event – making it the biggest yet.

The free event, first held last year, coincides with World Mental Health Day, (Tuesday, 10th October).

It gives 13 to 16-year-olds the chance to share their experiences of mental health support in Kent and Medway and learn new skills to boost their wellbeing in our increasingly stressful world.

As well as workshops at the County Showground at Detling:

  • alpacas and therapy dogs will be on hand for mindfulness sessions
  • 28 voluntary and community organisations that provide mental health services on behalf of KCC and Medway Council will take part in an interactive marketplace, and
  • participants will have the chance to try out sports and outdoor activities, including non-contact boxing, and wellbeing nature walks organised by Kent Country Parks’ Education Rangers.

Young leaders from Kent Youth County Council (KYCC) will also be presenting and hosting sessions, as well as posting social media content for everyone to follow throughout the day.

Young people meeting a llama at the big conversation event

Participants at 2022's Big Conversation event at Detling discover how caring for animals can make you feel happier

Hosted by i-THRIVE and Kent County Council (KCC), in collaboration with NHS Kent and Medway, this year’s Big Conversation follows the success of the 2022 event. You can watch a video about last year’s Big Mental Health Conversation here: BMHC2022.

Harrison, who attends Dartford Grammar School for Boys, said the Big Conversation makes him “feel heard.”

The 16-year-old added: “I think it’s a great way to engage with the decision makers.

“Through workshops and insights from over 25 organisations, covering topics such as mindfulness, the link between sleep and mental health, and LGBTQ+ and mental health support, the event serves as a platform for open dialogues about the challenges in Kent’s mental health services – and ways to improve them.”

Kent County Council member Sue Chandler

...talking openly about mental health issues has never been more important

Sue Chandler KCC's Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services

KCC's Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services, Sue Chandler, said: "We know from young people themselves that having skills to manage their emotional wellbeing and talking openly about mental health issues has never been more important.

”It’s fantastic to see all these organisations coming together for a second year running to make a bigger and better Big Conversation event.

“I can’t wait to go along to see what everyone’s doing as part of marking World Mental Health Day and hearing participants’ stories about their own mental health journeys.”

Alongside the Big Mental Health Conversation, NHS Kent and Medway is asking young people, their families and professionals who work with them, for their views on mental health support.

Surveys containing just five simple questions are available to complete on the Children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing engagement hub at

Head shot of Jane O'Rourke

This event gives us the opportunity to hear directly from young people about their experiences

Jane O’Rourke Director of Children’s Services for NHS Kent and Medway

Jane O’Rourke, Director of Children’s Services for NHS Kent and Medway, said: “We know that we need to improve the support available to children and young people for their mental health and emotional wellbeing in Kent and Medway.

“This event gives us the opportunity to hear directly from young people about their experiences.

“Not everyone can be at the event, so please also take part in the surveys available on our ‘Have Your Say in Kent and Medway’ platform to make sure we can take into account your views, ideas and experience.”