A-Level results day is here and young people all over Bristol are celebrating, commiserating and considering their options. Wellfest aims to help students celebrate the work they’ve put in this year.
Results day. The day when you find out what’s come of your last two years at school, college or university, and what it’s going to mean for your future. Did you do well enough to get into the university you chose, to do the course you’ve applied for, to get the job your heart is set on? And if you didn’t, what are you going to do now?
“We’ve all been through it and that’s a message that we want to get across: you will get through this,” says Samya Sarfaraz, third year medical student and Chair of the committee organising Wellfest – the wellbeing festival for young people organised by mental health charity Off The Record.
The theme for the festival, now in its second year, is ‘When life gives you lemons…’. It’s about celebrating all the hard work students put into the run up to their exams, even if they didn’t get the results they were hoping for, and about making plans for the future. “We know it feels like the end of the world right now [when you don’t get the result you want] but it really isn’t,” says Sarfaraz. “This day is one small part of the rest of your life. Don’t let it overtake everything, don’t let it ruin what could be an amazing day for you.”
Lewis Wedlock, second year psychology student and Wellfest media coordinator, says that there is too much focus on results and not enough celebration of the effort put in.
“It’s very hard for them to work, be consistent and stay motivated – and to be pushing for what it is that they’re trying to work towards. I think it’s important for Wellfest to celebrate that process as opposed to just being focused on the end goal.”
The impact of the ’employability machine’ on young people’s mental health
While one in 10 children and young people will experience mental health problems, 70% don’t have the right kinds of interventions early enough and all the reports point the same way: young people’s mental health is getting worse, especially for girls.
Recent NHS figures show that the number of girls under 18 ending up in hospital after self-harming has nearly doubled in the last 20 years. In addition, the number of girls attempting a substance overdose has soared from 249 to 2,736 in the last decade. And social media and school work are fuelling the crisis, say mental health charities.
Being young was hard work even before social media was there to judge your every move and allowed bullies to follow you home from school and into your home. It was stressful even before school was all about grades and next steps. Now, the academic landscape is constantly changing and schools have become ‘employability machines’, says Wedlock.
“Everything you do post GCSEs gears you up for becoming a great worker and getting a job and I think becoming a good worker isn’t necessarily having a positive effect on mental health, because you’re always measured by performance in numbers, he adds.”
“Entry requirements for university, spaces on courses, grade boundaries shifting for A-levels… I couldn’t do A-levels now and I only finished two years ago. The landscape has changed so much that I don’t think it would be the same experience.”
What to expect from Wellfest 2018
After launching last year, the festival this year has been organised by three university students and one A-Level student, who have pulled together a comprehensive programme. As well as being an opportunity for young people to celebrate their hard work, the festival is aimed at giving young people advice and connecting them with wellbeing services, says Sarfaraz.
There will be Bristol charities and projects advising on employment, housing and education support, food stalls, yoga, live music and talks.
New this year is the Transitions Panel, with people at different points in their lives answering questions from the audience. Among the panelists are representatives from UWE and Bristol student unions, a trainee solicitor, a GCSE student and a university student. results results results results results results results
But it’s not just for young people taking the academic route, says Wedlock. “It’s about a general celebration of what young people do and what they put themselves through throughout the year, because I don’t think that’s celebrated enough.”
Find out more about the event on its facebook page.