Cadbury College student presents TEDx Talk

Young mental health advocate gives insight into personality disorder.

Cadbury Sixth Form College student Zaynab Sohawon has spoken at TEDxYouth@Brum to give an insightful speech on suicide prevention and personality disorder, inspired by her own experience.

19-year-old Zaynab appeared alongside well-known names, including Birmingham’s Poet Laureate Casey Bailey, as part of an all-day virtual conference on Tuesday 30 March, and her talk is now available to watch online.

Held in partnership with Birmingham Hippodrome, TEDxYouth@Brum brings local people together to share a TED-like experience and spark discussion.

Zaynab’s TED talk challenges the stigma around personality disorder and sheds light on how those living with the condition can often experience suicidal thoughts and self-harm.

Joining many other young people who are using their own power to create positive change, Zaynab has spent the last two years working hard to advocate for young people with mental health conditions.

Inspired by her first-hand experience of mental health services, Zaynab is involved with a variety of organisations aiming to help professionals re-assess and improve the current provision. She is the UK representative for the International Association for Mental Health, and is the only person of colour and young person who works with the British and Irish Group for the Study of Personality Disorder as an executive.

Closer to home, Zaynab is also involved with the Institute for Mental Health at the University of Birmingham and works closely with Think4Brum, the youth advisory group for Forward Thinking Birmingham.

Currently working towards her A Levels in Biology, Chemistry and Psychology at Cadbury Sixth Form College, Zaynab hopes to study neuroscience at university and engage in a career where she can further research into youth mental health. In 2020, she won the Diana Award for her social action and humanitarian efforts, and is currently working on her second book. Her first, Miscellaneous Memoirs of the Mad, is a personal account of her experiences living with personality disorder and was written under the pen-name Zeze Jones.

Cadbury Sixth Form College has supported Zaynab since first meeting her in person to offer her a place at the college while she was studying for her GCSEs and living in a psychiatric ward.

Zaynab said: “My teachers, learning support and all the staff at Cadbury College have supported my efforts to create change and achieve my platform as a mental health advocate. I hope my experience can inspire my fellow students and show them that what they want to achieve is possible.”

Julia Stevens, Principal at Cadbury Sixth Form College, said: “We are incredibly proud of what Zaynab has achieved over the past few years while studying with us, and we’d like to congratulate her on her TEDx talk. Zaynab’s mental health advocacy work and humanitarian efforts are an inspiration to our staff and students, and we look forward to seeing what she goes on to achieve at university and beyond.

“At a time when young people have experienced unprecedented challenges and upheaval, the mental and physical wellbeing of our students is a priority across our colleges. We have a range of services which are designed to provide help, support and advice for anyone struggling to cope or manage their mental health and our teams and counselling services are on hand to help at any time.”