Award-winning Hertfordshire campaign increases conversations about mental health

Published: 28 Jan 2019

A Hertfordshire campaign that won a national award for its efforts to get young people in Hertfordshire talking about their mental health is back for the second year running.

#JustTalk encourages young people – especially boys and young men – to open up and talk about things that are worrying them, so that problems can be addressed before they escalate into a crisis.

Cabinet Member for Public Health, Tim Hutchings, said: “One in eight young people has a diagnosable mental health problem, so it’s really important that we reach them as early as possible to help them open up and seek support through campaigns like #JustTalk.

“In 2016, 24 per cent of 12-13 year old boys in Hertfordshire kept worries about their mental health to themselves. Following the #JustTalk campaign last year, this figure had reduced to 20 per cent and boys were also more likely to talk to others if they were worried about tests, exams or school work.

“This demonstrates the positive impact that campaigns like #JustTalk can have, both for individuals and as part of our wider prevention agenda.”

The next campaign week is taking place from 4 – 10 February 2019 and now includes primary schools, colleges, and other youth settings, as well as secondary schools. A #JustTalk toolkit is available to help schools, colleges, sports clubs or any agency working with young people to run short activities, assemblies and lessons throughout the week to share the campaign messages:

We all have mental health just like we all have physical health. It’s OK to not be OK. Talking shows strength and is the first step to feeling better. #JustTalk.

13-year-old Alex Strazza explained: “I think boys tend to keep problems inside, we want to stay strong and not look weak in a way. But there’s no need for that, if you share your problems then it will help everything.”

13-year-old Louis Webb added: “I entered the #JustTalk film competition because I thought it was important that everyone knew what mental health is and that it’s important to speak to people if you’re feeling a little bit down.”

Radio presenter and TV personality Iain Lee is supporting the campaign. He said: “This is a subject that is very close to my heart and I fully support any campaigns that aim to help young people, especially boys and young men, cope with mental health issues.

“It really is so important that we all #JustTalk about mental health, to break down the stigma and help young people know that it’s OK to not be OK and that there are people out there who can listen and help.”

A raft of other celebrities and local role models have also endorsed the campaign, including international footballer Jack Wilshere, premiership players from Watford and Arsenal, mental health campaigners Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn (Strangers on the Bridge) and many more.

The 2019 #JustTalk competition inviting young people to submit a film storyboard to promote the campaign has been launched. The winning entry will be professionally produced as a short film and promoted widely. Last year’s brilliant winning films racked up over 25,000 views in the first week. To find out how to enter and watch last year’s films, visit:

A range of health and wellbeing organisations across Hertfordshire have come together to develop, support and embed #JustTalk. Led by Hertfordshire County Council, partners are working together with young people to ensure that everyone has a better understanding of mental health

Anthony Smith, deputy head at The Reach Free School summed up the campaign: “Introducing #JustTalk has hugely elevated the profile of mental health in our school and begun to normalise conversations surrounding mental health.

“We have made use of the cross-curricular lesson plans for subjects such as PE which has created an awareness of how mental health connects to everything that we do and is not just a standalone issue.

“This year we are going to use the #JustTalk resources to run a parents awareness evening for mental health too.”

For more information about the campaign and downloadable copies of the toolkit and other resources, please visit

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #JustTalk