Arlo Parks, a voice for the next generation

When it comes to the power of open conversation, no one knows better than UNICEF Australia’s Youth Ambassadors.

Recently, our amazing team of young advocates had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Arlo Parks, award-winning musician and top UNICEF UK supporter, while she was here on tour in Australia .

Here’s how it went…

How important is our mental health as young people?

Arlo: I think for me, mental health is what brought me to work with UNICEF and it’s just been one of my main goals from the very beginning.

It’s about making mental health support more accessible, something everyone can tap into. Mental health issues don’t discriminate and everyone has a mind that needs to be taken care of.

I think accessibility, in terms of what people learn about school and learning how to self-soothe, meditate, or just process their emotions, is something that hasn’t penetrated some communities yet. The therapy is still very expensive and still seems quite exclusive.

“I think it’s important to try to facilitate mental health support so that everyone can access it.”

Arlo, 22 years old

High level supporter of UNICEF in the UK

Left: Welcome sign created by Manon, a UNICEF Australia Youth Ambassador. Right: Arlo Parks in conversation with the Youth Ambassadors of the UNICEF Australia office in Sydney.
© UNICEF Australia/2022/Labade

How do you balance your personal life, your career and your mental health?

Finding a community is something that makes you feel stronger. Growing up I didn’t have many friends but through music I found a community, it did. [later fame, life] Easier. Starting to make music also gave me confidence and gave me a sense of identity.

“This is who I am, and this is who I love” was my mantra, made me feel stronger and more confident to be myself.

But successful people still struggle. Writing, making, and listening to music has been one of the greatest types of therapy for me, and it’s something anyone can do. I think when I found out how therapeutic journaling or writing a song or poem could be, I thought “wow”.

A lot of people think maybe it’s not for them because of the kind of literature they learn in school or because they don’t know how to do it. It’s something I want to do more, work with young people, do workshops to explain how I do [take care of my mental health and wellbeing] so they can try it themselves.

“I absolutely loved meeting Arlo today. She talked a lot about surrounding yourself with a group of honest and good people so that you have support to be true to yourself and achieve all your goals and dreams, no matter what. It really resonated with me and every young ambassador in the room.”

Zara, 20 years old

UNICEF Australia Youth Ambassador

“Arlo emphasized how important it is that we put mental health above anything else. We can do all of these things for others in our lives, but if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t be at our best. She gave examples of meditating, reading books, walking her dog, putting on a podcast and cooking a meal. It was insightful, no only about his personality, but about things we can apply to our own lives to practice mindfulness.

Harrison, 20

UNICEF Australia Youth Ambassador

Arlo Parks and another young woman are laughing.
Mental health professional and Youth Ambassador Emily Unity connects with Arlo on the topics of identity and lived experience with mental health during the conversation.
© UNICEF Australia/2022/Labade

As a young person, what is your vision for the future?

I am extremely optimistic. It’s hard sometimes when you watch the news and see everything that’s going on. But real change comes from people.

I found talking to the young ambassador to be truly inspiring. I think the beautiful thing was to see how they turned their difficult lived experiences into a real desire to make things better.

The people I meet have given me so much hope for what is to come. I think that real sense of empathy, that people are so selfless, that they want to change their own times, their own backs, it gives me hope for the support that the next generation is going to have to come. I hope the world is a better place for that.

“It was a fantastic experience; Arlo was so down to earth! It was very refreshing and we had very productive conversations about identity, racism and advocacy. It really changed our perspective on what it means to “succeed”, to be successful while continuing to have a positive impact in our communities and in the rest of the world.”

Jahin, 21 years old

UNICEF Australia Youth Ambassador

A group of young people and Arlo Parks smiling at the camera.
Arlo reunites with all of the Young Ambassadors after the stimulating conversation. From left to right: Chris, Zara, Kbora, Harrison, Grace, Manon, Amber, Isabelle, Emily, Arlo and Jahin.
© UNICEF Australia/2022/Labade

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