Beth Bretherton, Young Health Champion based in Wigan

Beth Bretherton, a Young Health Champion based in Wigan, explains how the RSPH Level 2 Award for Young Health Champions has helped her overcome her illness and support other young people.

Diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome at the young age of 12, I’ve always battled some kind of stigma. Whether that’s the stigma surrounding Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or poor mental health due to isolation, I feel very passionately about sending out the right message and making sure people understand the facts that can help them.

In my own life, I focus on living each day positively despite suffering with poor health that debilitates me. This is difficult but I’ve learnt it’s essential in making each day a happy one. I try to promote the values of understanding others, being grateful for each day and focusing on self-care.

My beliefs have always been important to me, even when I wasn’t ill. I love learning about health promotion, researching a balanced diet, good mental health and how to live a peaceful, happy life. I’ve attempted to do a health and social care course twice but was unable to complete due to ill health, so I was very happy when I found out that I’d be doing the RSPH Level 2 Award for Young Health Champions (YHC).

Before I completed the YHC Award, I had no idea how committed Wigan Borough Council was in educating young people and having them play a key part in educating their family and friends. Learning about health, mental health and who you can talk to about any concerns was very interesting and I feel lucky to have been a part of it.

Through the health promotion part of the course, I designed and produced my mental health booklet You Can Help: A Small Guide To Helping Someone In Crisis. In this, I focused on destigmatizing mental health by highlighting positive ways you could support someone going through a hard time.

I came up with ways you could emotionally or practically help someone suffering to help when they are at their lowest point. I hope to spread the view that mental health can be improved if people feel able to support those around them. If they feel like they can help, rather than feeling like it’s hopeless and doing nothing.

In my personal life I can definitely see the benefits of doing the YHC Award. Since completing it, I’m more able to put into practice the knowledge concerning what I’ve learnt: for example healthy eating and exercise. I don’t worry about talking with my family about mental health and the struggles I face with my physical health.

Carrying out my campaign has made me so much more confident and has given me something I can passionately talk about without feeling shy. My self-esteem continues to improve and I’ve never felt as supported as I do by the tutors of the course, Professor Kate Ardern as Wigan’s Director of Public Health and RSPH.

This support has helped me to decide that in the future, I would like to gain a job in a public health role. I’m no longer afraid of applying for apprenticeships in this area and the confidence from the course has helped me to set goals to work towards.

The YHC Award has helped me to decide that I would love to do with my future.