A 25-year-old north Londoner who drew on personal experiences of loss and depression to help young people better deal with mental health challenges, has received an international award linked to his advocacy work.
Kwame Osei Owusu, who is studying to become a pharmacist, impressed judges with his online work that tackled cyberbullying and de-stigmatised discussion on mental health to become one of the global recipients of the Diana Award in July 2022.
My aim is to eradicate the stigma associated with people talking about their mental health conditions
Established in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, the award is credited as one of the highest accolades a young person can achieve for social action or humanitarian efforts. The Award recognises the achievements of changemakers aged between nine and 25 years old across the globe.
“My aim is to eradicate the stigma associated with people talking about their mental health conditions, seeking a diagnosis or receiving treatment for a mental health condition,” Kwame told Abena at AKADi Magazine.
“By sharing my experiences of poor mental health in 2014, and the steps I took to get better, I noticed that other people including adults became more confident about sharing their stories and seeking help as well.”
Kwame, who migrated to Enfield from Mpatasie in Kumasi in 2010, has a history of working in youth social action. He became the founding member of youth organisation Aspire2Inspire and mentored young people interested in pharmacy and engineering careers.
He has been a speaker and panellist for the National Citizens Service, youth-led organisations such as the Enfield Youth Parliament, and the Afro-Caribbean Society while at university.
Through his work, he has been able to signpost people with mental health challenges to access support through their GP and the Samaritans.
These experiences contributed to him securing a role as one of the directors of ReachOut2All CIC in 2020. The charity champions work to lead better mental health conversations and advocate for good mental health.
“While at ReachOut2All CIC, I was invited to speak at an online conference held for young people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As an advocate of mental health, I talked to young people about the measures they can adopt to promote a positive mental wellbeing state, and signs to look out for in others that might need support,” he told Abena.
Award recipients are nominated by adults who know the young people in a professional capacity and recognised their efforts as a positive contribution to society. Nominators must demonstrate the nominee’s impact in five key areas: vision, social impact, inspiring others, youth leadership, and service journey.
In Kwame’s case, his nomination came from founder of ReachOut2All CIC Marian Adejokun, who he had worked closely with since 2020.
Kwame, who has almost completed his training to become a pharmacist, said: “Receiving this award is important to me because it has enabled me to gain access to other training programme that shapes and adds value to my actions in becoming a more active advocate and leader within the community I find myself.”
The Diana Award ceo Tessy Ojo CBE, said: “We warmly congratulate our new Diana Award recipients from the UK and across the world who are changemakers for their generation. It is especially poignant as we remember Princess Diana 25 years on. We know by receiving this honour they will inspire more young people to get involved in their communities and begin their own journey as active citizens.”
Kwame became a provisional pharmacist in November 2022 and is preparing for his qualification examination in 2023.