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Father's campaign to help young people struggling with mental health

Martin Knowles spoke to ITV News Anglia about his work to raise awareness of mental health Credit: ITV News Anglia

The father of missing Norfolk student Sophie Smith is backing a campaign to tackle mental heath in children and young people.

Sophie was last seen heading towards the sea in her pyjamas on Boxing Day, she'd left a suicide note.

Martin Knowles only found out after she'd disappeared, that his daughter had been suffering from severe anxiety and depression.

Now he is trying to encourage other young people to get help for their problems.

Sophie Smith disappeared on Boxing Day 2017, she had left a suicide note Credit: Family photo

Last night (17th April) Martin was the guest speaker at a mental health awareness event organised for young people in the Gorleston and Hopton area of Norfolk.

The event at Cliff Park Junior School in Gorleston was aimed at young people aged under 25 to give them and their parents an insight into local services and support; counselling, referrals and advice.

The idea came from the Gorleston based Central Health Centre Patient Participation Group which said Sophie's disappearance had focussed hearts and minds on the important issue of mental health.

The awareness event at Cliff Park Junior School Credit: ITV News Anglia

"We all want the best for our children and we want to know where we can get help. When it first hits you that your child has got a problem you feel helpless because you do not know what to do. It became clear to me that people struggle to know where to go."

– Tina Cleveland, Chairman of Central Health Centre Group

"For Sophie and people in the future. If we can continue to help like last night just one person in the future then that's better than helping nobody at all. Yes, so it's for Sophie but it's for young people in the future."

– Martin Knowles

Another speaker at the event was 15 year old Jessica Jones who suffers with anxiety and she talked openly about how she feels on a bad day.

Jessica Jones Credit: ITV News Anglia

"Well I feel completely alone even though there's a bunch of people around me like family and friends. I don't feel like there's anyone I can talk to . And i know that no one can understand what I am going through and I just feel hopeless that there's no point in living and it just nothing seems like it's ever going to get better again."

– Jessica Jones

Her mother Nicola says Jessica's problems all started when she got bullied at the age of six.

"And she kept getting more and more problems until about 18 months ago and it really got bad and to watch her she was my little girl and she was just disappearing into herself and it just broke my heart to watch her."

– Nicola Jones, Jessica's mother
Some parents believe social Media is part of the problem Credit: ITV News Anglia

"We just have to stop judging each other and understand that we are who we are . We don't have to be looking like someone famous , or have the nicest eyebrows, or the nicest eyeliner wing. We have to understand that we are who we are and we don't have to be like someone else all the time."

– Jessica Jones

The charity Young Minds works to support young people with mental health issues, their statistics are worrying:

13,000
Calls are made from worried parents every year to the charity Young Minds
  • 1 in 10 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder.
  • Almost 1 in 4 children and young people show some evidence of mental ill health ( including anxiety and depression).
  • Suicide is the most common cause of death for boys between 5 and 19 years old and second most common for girls of this age.

Watch an interview with Jo Estrin from Young Minds spoke to ITV News Anglia's Victoria Lampard.