Welwyn Garden City schoolgirl lobbies Parliament

A TEENAGE girl who has battled against anorexia and depression has lobbied Parliament about mental health support issues in schools.

Hannah Bilverstone, of Digswell, was invited by leading UK mental health charity YoungMinds to question a panel of politicians.

She was joined by fellow students who have different health conditions.

The 17-year-old was diagnosed with both anorexia nervosa and severe depression in 2006, and said she encountered “mixed experiences” during school life.

She said she was shunned and bullied by some of her peers, yet on the other hand found some staff were very supportive and made special allowances.

Hannah said: “I’ve had depression since I was 14 and anorexia from the ages of 13 to 16.

“YoungMinds told me about the event and I jumped at the chance to be able to question MPs about mental health support in schools.

Most Read

“I felt it was a fantastic opportunity to get my voice heard and use my experiences to help the lives of other young people.”

The Question Time-style event was organised by an alliance of more than 30 health charities.

The panel was chaired by BBC newscaster and The Politics Show presenter Jon Sopel, and included MP Jim Cunningham who put forward the Schools (Health Support) Bill as a Private Members’ Bill in May.

Hannah questioned MPs about why, despite the statistic that one in four people will suffer from a mental health problem at some point in their life, that mental health awareness was still not a compulsory part of education.

She said: “The panel responded very well to my question and seemed to identify with the importance of what I was saying.

“I just hope that something will be done so that the lives of young people with mental health problems can improve.”

Hannah, who attended St Francis’ College in Letchworth and is now a sixth-former at Sir John Henry Newman School in Stevenage, added: “My MP, Grant Shapps, also came to meet me.

“I had the opportunity to explain to him about how important support in schools is and why I wanted to be at the event.”

Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps said: “I found Hannah a very brave young lady who was very keen to lobby at the Houses of Parliament to raise awareness about these issues.”