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Co-designing and implementing mental health services for young people.
Children and young people’s mental health issues have become a growing crisis in the UK. According to a survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), one in 10 children, nearly 3 children in every classroom, has a diagnosable mental health condition. It is known that 50% of mental illness in adult life starts before age 15 and 75% by age 18.2. However, 70% of children and young people who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.
After working with national Mind for 3 months, I put a call out to the local Mind network to collaborate on a project to address young people’s mental health needs. Thurrock Mind, a charity delivering mental health services, applied to learn about Service Design and develop their youth services.
The agreed aim of the project was to co-design and implement mental health services for young people aged 13-24 to be delivered by Thurrock Mind. It was imperative that Thurrock Mind staff were up-skilled in Service Design, so that the tools and techniques could be applied to their other services.
During the project, interviews and co-design workshops were conducted in order to gather insights and test ideas with young people, mental health experts, youth workers, teachers, parents and community members in Thurrock. In total, 76 young people aged 13-24 years old and 31 experts and community members were consulted in 10 workshops and 17 interviews.
From this gained key insights:
Provide us with high quality mental health education
“I spent a while not knowing what a panic attack was. I thought I was having an asthma attack or dying.” Laura, 18, Inspire Youth
Upskill our teachers to understand and support mental health
“I felt mentally ill but my teacher kicked me out the class because they thought it was a behaviour problem. But I actually needed help.”
Jo, 20, Inspire Youth
We trust mental health professionals over teachers and parents
“Professionals know what they are doing. They are not judgemental.” Haden, Thurrock Youth Council
Make schools stigma free safe spaces
“One of my friends self harmed but he didn’t want to talk about it because he was scared of being laughed at.” Lauren, Thurrock Youth Council
Home life affects mental health the most
“Sometimes there’s problems in the home. One young person is stressed because her mum moved out. One case a kid has to share rooms and they have nowhere to study at home” Jack, EWMHs
Series of Mental Health Workshops for Young People
A series of interactive mental health workshops for young people, including group discussions and an opportunity for participants to contribute their own experiences of mental health. In response to an overwhelming call for foundational mental health education, the pilot workshop, twice delivered by Thurrock Mind and produced in collaboration with the RCA team, included an informative presentation which explains what mental health is, the causes and signs of poor mental health, wellbeing strategies, and how to access mental health support.
Inset Day Training for School Staff
Young people stated that school staff need training on how to support them in the classroom environment, which includes; knowing how to talk about mental health, tackling stigma in and around the classroom, being informed on mental health issues such as; identity, self harm, exam stress, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, suicide and social media. School staff and teachers expressed a desire for more mental health training, asking “How do I increase their resilience?” and “How can I make a student ‘happy’ who feels negative about everything”. Schools consistently requested that training would be 1-2 hours long to fit into their existing inset days and inset evenings with some schools favouring evenings in order to maximize teaching time during term time for students. We worked with Thurrock Mind to develop this offering.
Mental Health First Aid Training
Essex County Council have made it a priority to get school staff mental health first aid trained, following a number of young people taking their own lives in recent years. The insights produced in this project confirms that having school staff trained in mental health is key to creating a supportive school environment. Therefore Thurrock Mind have booked mental health first aid training for four members of their own staff. On qualifying, these staff will be able to deliver mental health first aid training to school staff and youth workers.
Young people and professionals stressed the importance of knowing exactly how to access mental health services. A wallet sized signposting card has been produced by the RCA team, with trusted websites and contact details for young people to use any time they need. The signposting cards have been and will continue to be distributed by Thurrock Mind to young people via schools and during workshops, as well as given to parents and school staff.
Setting up a visually appealing ‘front door’ for Thurrock Mind’s social media, so that young people know that they are a trustworthy organisation. This intervention also builds trust with partners, such as schools and potential funders. In order to make this meaningful and appealing to young people, the team worked with 19 students from South Essex College in South End to create gifs and visuals promoting the children and young people’s 5 ways to wellbeing.
Peer to peer support groups for families are recommended as a way of supporting the mental health of families, and consequently creating a positive home environment for their children. Thurrock Mind and the wider Mind network have a history of running successful peer support groups. The recommendation is to expand groups so that a larger number of people can access them; ensure that schools and colleges in the area are aware of these groups for referrals; and continue to host groups outside of schools and colleges to give people a neutral environment to share and seek support.
A safe space is a room within a school for students to use should they need to retreat and attend to their mental health. This solution is preventative and contributes to making schools positive environments. It was repeatedly put forward by young people across the workshops and met with enthusiasm from mental health experts and teachers alike. Teachers recommended that schools make “A place for students to go that is theirs but is safe, but also monitored by someone who can help”. In response to this the project team have developed a ‘recipe card’ for schools considering creating their own safe space. The recipe has been developed drawing on what young people, mental health professionals and teachers said would create the most beneficial space.
These solutions were all co-produced during workshops with young people, teachers and Thurrock Mind staff. We carried out further testing sessions with young people and teachers. The series of mental health workshops for young people, signposting cards and social media have been implemented and tested. The first aid training has been booked and Thurrock Mind have been trained in workshop design, ready to begin production of teacher workshops.
Improved mental health literacy
“I learned more about mental health and understood what I could do to
help others.” Anon, Prince’s Trust.
65% of the 20 young people who attended prototype workshops reported an increased knowledge of how to look after their own mental health.
“I liked that they were understandingand showed more ways to access mental health services.” Anon, William Edwards School.
70% of young people reported the pilot workshops left them with better knowledge of how to access mental health services. There was also a significant increase in young people reporting they knew how to access those services and felt able to.
Strengthened links with existing youth services
During the course of the project Thurrock Mind engaged with 7 schools and youth organisations, all of whom have requested they return to provide further education to both staff and young people.
Thurrock Mind fully equipped to use Service Design
Thurrock Mind are using collaborative Service Design techniques learned during the project to conduct a whole organisation reshuffle – looking at office
structure, IT systems and staff responsibilities.
Buy in from Thurrock Mind board
Before the project the board were apprehensive to move into youth services, after research findings were presented at the annual general meeting of the board they began talks to extend youth services to even younger children.
Young people seeking mental health support
During the pilot workshops a young person came forward to seek mental health support, having previously been silent. They received immediate support from the Thurrock Mind team.
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