Boris Johnson praises powerful mental health campaign in Kesgrave

MP Dr Dan Poulter presenting Boris Johnson's letter to Debbie McCallum

MP Dr Dan Poulter presenting Boris Johnson's letter to Debbie McCallum. The PM has praised the Behind the Mask campaign - Credit: Office of Dr Dan Poulter

A powerful mental health campaign started by a Kesgrave teenager has received recognition from the prime minister 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has praised the Behind the Mask campaign in Kesgrave

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has praised the Behind the Mask campaign in Kesgrave - Credit: PA

Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and north Ipswich,  presented a letter from Boris Johnson to Debbie McCallum, who is landlady of The Bell in Kesgrave.

The councillor awarded more than £800 from her locality budget to support the powerful Behind the Mask poster campaign launched by Maisie Jones, 18, while she was a sixth-former at Kesgrave High School.

Behind the Mask by Maisie Jones

Behind the Mask by Maisie Jones, which is being used as a poster to encourage conversations around mental health. - Credit: Maisie Jones

Mr Johnson said in his letter: "I would like to convey my heartfelt thanks to Councillor McCallum for her tireless efforts in supporting this important local mental health initiative, and for all the work she has done, and continues to do, for her local community."

He also said that “local initiatives, such as Behind the Mask are an invaluable addition” to the wider response across government to support children and young people.

The Behind the Mask self-portrait poster, featuring tears running down the young girl’s face, was created by Maisie using extracts from her own journal as a teenager suffering from anxiety and depression.

It is being used to encourage mental health discussions with family and friends during the Covid pandemic.

Boris Johnson's letter praising councillor Debbie McCallum and the Behind the Mask campaign

Boris Johnson's letter praising councillor Debbie McCallum and the Behind the Mask campaign - Credit: Office of De Dan Poulter

Mrs McCallum said: "To have the letter from Boris was lovely. It's something my grandchildren will be very proud of and it's going in a frame on my wall."

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She said the letter was also recognition for Maisie and the whole community, commenting: "We have all supported each other in Kesgrave during Covid."  

Mrs McCallum said: "It's a very brave message by Maisie and very powerful.

"The poster she created is being used in schools and is now being used in Colchester as well. It's something you can use at home with your children, and say, 'Have you ever felt any of these things?"

Maisie was also pleased by the prime minister's letter. She said: "I was a bit shocked, to be honest. I wasn't expecting it."

People have stopped Maisie in the street to thank her for the poster.

The teenager said: "Friends, family and some people I don't even know have been posting it on social media and I've seen it in people's windows. I just want to thank Debbie, because I wouldn't have been able to do it without her support."   

Dr Poulter, who is himself an NHS doctor, brought the campaign to Mr Johnson's attention.

Presenting the letter, the MP said “I’m delighted that the prime minister has recognised and commended the work of Debbie and by association, Maisie’s involvement in creating the powerful poster image.

"As we move out of the pandemic, it is vital that our children and young people are able to talk with their families and friends about their mental health and to understand when and how to seek support.

"The Behind the Mask campaign is a powerful message which I hope will serve as a starting point for some of those conversations between parents and their children and I would like to echo the prime minister’s sentiments in congratulating both Debbie and Maisie for their achievement.”




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