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

20 August 2015

Today sees the launch of a series of articles about new approaches to young people's mental health, drawing on the evaluation and experiences of the pioneering five-year Right Here project funded by Mental Health Foundation and Paul Hamlyn Foundation. The programme focused on youth-led, youth work approaches to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of young people aged 16 – 25.

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 221. 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, former manager of Right Here, and Mark Brown, Development Director of Social Spider, a regular consultant to the programme, 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. They ask the question:

“Youth work and young people's mental health go hand in hand: why don't we give youth work what it needs to make better mental health a reality?”

Susan Blishen, Project Lead for Right Here

“Over five years we found out a lot about what does and doesn't work when you set yourself the goal of working with young people to develop new ways of helping others to have better mental health. These articles should be of interest to anyone who cares about ensuring that the mental health of our young people is given priority. In thinking about Right Here and what it achieved we realised that good youth work, far from being an add-on to the story of young people's mental health and wellbeing, can be a vital component of supporting young people's mental health and wellbeing.”

Lily Blackmore, young volunteer, Right Here Brighton and Hove

“The 2.5 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. “

Jenny Edwards, CEO, Mental Health Foundation

“The Right Here project was the first of its kind in its attempt to revolutionize the way we think about youth mental health. These articles document just how important it is to ensure the wishes of young people are respected, peer support is encouraged, and that services commissioned are designed with these at their core. Looking forward, the lessons learned should play a key role in shaping the role youth mental health services have in our society. The Mental Health Foundation supports the involvement of young people and working with them as leaders in co-production of services fit for the 21st century.”

Rob Bell, Director of Strategy, Paul Hamlyn Foundation

“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

See Susan Blishen's commentary on the project and the articles

For further information or to interview some of the young people or staff involved in Right Here, please contact the Paul Hamlyn Foundation press team at 020 7812 3396 or communications@phf.org.uk

About Right Here

Right Here was a five-year, £6m initiative, to change how we look after the mental health and wellbeing of young people aged 16 to 25 across the UK. Run by the Mental Health Foundation and Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the programme put youth participation at the heart of its work to develop effective and innovative early interventions for young people at risk of developing mental health problems. Working in four pilot areas of the UK – Brighton and Hove, Newham, Sheffield and Fermanagh – the projects were been jointly designed and delivered by young people, youth workers and mental health professionals. The programme ended in 2014 but the two foundations are committed to building on and sharing the learning from it as widely as possible.

About the Mental Health Foundation

The Mental Health Foundation wants better mental health for all. We develop and run research and delivery programmes across the UK that have, for more than six decades, given us the evidence and expertise to know what works and how to intervene earlier. Our work is centred on prevention because the best way to deal with a crisis is to prevent it from happening. We know that with the right support and guidance millions of people can avoid developing mental health problems - with enormous benefits to them, their families, friends, communities and the nation as a whole.

About the Paul Hamlyn Foundation

Paul Hamlyn Foundation was established by Paul Hamlyn in 1987. Upon his death in 2001, Paul Hamlyn left most of his estate to the Foundation, creating one of the largest independent grant-making foundations in the UK. The Foundation's mission is to help people overcome disadvantage and lack of opportunity, so that they can realise their potential and enjoy fulfilling and creative lives. Paul Hamlyn Foundation has a particular interest in supporting young people and a strong belief in the importance of the arts.

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