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Navigating Christmas after meningitis

19th December 2023

Our Believe & Achieve network came together to discuss how Christmas can be a joyful but also challenging time for young people with an experience of meningitis.

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“It was so good to connect with people that have gone through similar experiences.”

Believe & Achievers joined two online social events across two evenings in December.

Both evenings were packed with laughter, creativity, and most importantly, offered a safe space to meet new people and further strengthen friendships forged through shared experiences of meningitis.

Whether first timers or event regulars, all attendees were unified by a common wish to spend time alongside others who ‘get it’.

In traditional Believe & Achieve style, festive boxes winged their way to all corners of the country, filled with creative activities to share as part of a ‘community unboxing’ session. Most managed not to have a sneaky peak before the night!

Creative activities

One young adult shared this insight; “I really enjoy creative activities as they distract me from feeling nervous about meeting new people. It was so good to connect with people that have gone through similar experiences, as I don’t know anyone who has had meningitis, especially as a young adult! It was a pressure-free environment which really helps with my anxiety.”

The socials kicked off with energetic scavenger hunts that saw participants share a bit more about themselves using objects from their homes. Common ground was found in shared passions and everyone’s unique talents and differences were celebrated.

Budding film makers and musicians were revealed, as well as rugby stars of the future. Artists, footballers and writers were also in attendance, as well as Star Wars aficionados, nail artists and bakers. A kitten even made a cameo, much to everyone’s delight!

Highs and lows

During the 11-16 year old’s session the group played a festive version of ‘either or’ which helped to explore the highs and lows of Christmas time. Some participants acknowledged that, although Christmas can be fun-filled and wonderful, it can also be tiring when balancing after-effects, or the emotional impact of a ‘new normal,’. Many are also navigating losses and bereavement experienced because of meningitis.

Activity boxes included a self sooth box each, aimed at helping young people at times of overwhelm over the festive period and beyond.

The 17-25 year olds created nostalgic Christmas tree baubles and heard from one of our inspirational young adults who recently attended a formal dinner at the House of Lords, hosted by Lord Darzi on behalf of Meningitis Now. Libby shared how she had overcome her fear of public speaking to address a room full of people to help them understand the additional challenges young people can face following meningitis.


All groups decorated gingerbread people and gingerbread houses whilst Peer Mentors Fiona, Ollie and Conor shared their personal experiences with the group. They offered strategies that could help others to navigate their after-effects and explained the important role that peer mentoring can play in the lives of both mentors and mentees. They outlined how being part of the Believe & Achieve programme has helped them progress in all areas of their lives.

There was a visible transformational effect on those listening to the stories of other young people with first-hand experience of meningitis. Many participants shared that it helped them feel less isolated. This was captured beautifully in some feedback from a parent too;

“I wanted to express my huge thanks to you for organising and hosting such a wonderful opportunity. It was clear how much thought, care and consideration had gone into it.

I particularly benefitted from hearing Ollie's story. It resonated with my son, and I can see how this support will be so invaluable to him now and in the future. I am so grateful to you all and I wish I could thank you more.”

Planning has already started for 2024 face-to-face events, with Believe & Achievers actively involved in decision-making.

If you are a young person aged between 11-25, or know someone who is that would benefit from the support on offer, then you can find out more about what we do and how you can get involved by following this link . We can’t wait to meet you!