We chat with local GSAL student Jessica Ward, who is currently running for Leeds Children’s Mayor.
“It turns out that 50% of mental health issues start by the age of 14 and can continue into adulthood, which I thought was really horrible.”
Jessica Ward, aged 10 years old and a student at The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL), has already done more political campaigning than most of us will do in a lifetime in her bid to become Leeds Children’s Mayor. Jessica is among 12 finalists from across Leeds who are still in the race, and when the opportunity to run for the position became available, she immediate knew she wanted to go for it: “I want to be a high achieving person,” Jessica said. “And it’s also just a great thing to do. I want to be someone that people know about, so getting a head start on speaking in public is good. It seemed like my kind of thing, and it was I guess, because I’m in the final 12!”
While the process has involved a lot of new experiences, Jessica has enjoyed campaigning: “It has definitely built up my confidence. Before I wasn’t very confident, but I was getting better, and it has helped a lot because you have to talk to strangers a lot of the time to campaign. I love all of the campaigning where I go out to places, like the netball camps at GSAL and other places as well. Sometimes I see my friends, and sometimes it’s random people. It’s always really fun doing it because there are a lot of nice people to meet. I really love my business cards! They have my Facebook and Twitter and the link to the voting website on it and it’s really cool to hand those out.”
Jessica is running on a manifesto centred around improving children’s and young people’s mental health in Leeds, which is a very important issue for her: “It turns out that 50% of mental health issues start by the age of 14 and can continue into adulthood, which I thought was really horrible. Personally, I have a mild case of social anxiety. I know how hard it can be sometimes, and I only have a mild case, so I want to stop people who have more severe cases from harming themselves. Some of my friends also experience mental health issues.”
As with any prevalent issue, there are many ways it could be tackled, and lucky for us, Jessica has a few ideas of her own: “I think my favourite idea is mental health first aiders. For example, if you were to fall and cut your knee at school, you would go and see a first aider. There should be someone to talk to who is a trained therapist. So you can be treated mentally as well as physically.”
Jessica would also like to introduce spaces into Leeds which are exclusive to children and filled with wellness activities: “We could have parks that only children are allowed in. Of course, if they’re really young then adults should be allowed to accompany them, but otherwise just children and no stray adults who don’t have a child there. These areas could contain play equipment, nature walks, craft areas, or mindful activities like gardening. Fresh air is actually really good for your brain and so is playing with other children.”
The new Leeds Children’s Mayor will be announced on 5th October, and we wish Jessica the best of luck!