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  • 24 Aug 2015

Charities urge radical re-think of youth mental health services and support

A series of articles about new approaches to young people’s mental health have been released, drawing on the evaluation and experiences of the pioneering five-year Right Here project funded by Mental Health Foundation and Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Adolescence and early adulthood are peak risk times for the onset of mental health problems. At any one time, one in six young adults aged 16-24 will have a common mental disorder, such as anxiety and depression, that meets the threshold for a clinical diagnosis. Serious mental health problems affect around one person in a hundred and the average age of onset of psychotic symptoms is 22[1].  However, there are a range of barriers to accessing effective and early care. Transitions between services for children and adults tend to be poorly co-ordinated and there is a lack of age-appropriate mental health care.

The articles, co-written by Susan Blishen, Project Lead for Right Here, and Mark Brown, Development Director of Social Spider, provide fresh insights into what works and what doesn’t in the youth mental health field and make a strong case for mental-health-informed youth work as an approach that can complement and supplement more traditional medically-based services.

Working in four pilot areas of the UK – Brighton and Hove, Newham, Sheffield and Fermanagh – the projects were jointly designed and delivered by young people, youth workers and mental health professionals. Lily Blackmore, a young volunteer at Right Here Brighton and Hove, talks about her experience with the project:

“The two and a half years I volunteered for the campaigns and mental health promotions team of Right Here Brighton and Hove shaped me as a person.  Before I came to Right Here, I thought I might like to study politics.  Being part of Right Here was a huge journey for me and helped me learn about, and be, myself.  I made so many friends, and it was such a supportive environment – the staff were amazing too – that it gave you the confidence to be yourself, to find out what I really wanted and enjoyed. 

“Now, I’d like to study psychology and to work in schools, or colleges.  My work with Right Here Brighton and Hove showed me what a difference could be made in this area.  I think learning about mental health and how to look after yourself and helping young people to be open about talking about their feelings are just as important as learning about maths and English!  Right Here helped young people accept who they are, find their own way, look after themselves, and think about how they are feeling.  These things are so important.”

Paul Hamlyn Foundation supported the initiative, as part of its continued dedication to improve the quality and quantity of support available for the most vulnerable young people. The Foundation helps organisations at different stages of development to improve, consolidate and spread those good practices which are endeavouring to make young lives better.

Rob Bell, Director of Strategy, Paul Hamlyn Foundation spoke about the learnings from the Right Here project:

“Part of what Paul Hamlyn Foundation does is to help improve our understanding of social issues, and find better responses. Young people’s mental health and well-being is a challenge of growing importance, because whilst the fast changing and uncertain world generates new opportunities and possibilities for young people, it can also increase insecurity, inequality and isolation.  

 “The resources, learning, experience and energy that Right Here generated should enhance and inform all of our efforts to re-think and re-design services and support for young people.”

Find the articles and read more about the Right Here project here

See Susan Blishen’s commentary on the project and the articles here

Learn more about how Paul Hamlyn Foundation is investing in young people

[1] McManus S, Meltzer H, Brugha T et al (2007) Adult psychiatric morbidity in England NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care