Right Here Brighton and Hove

Right Here Brighton and Hove was a partnership led by Sussex Central YMCA (now YMCA Downslink Group), along with Mind in Brighton and Hove and Brighton and Hove City Council’s Children and Families Services.

Brighton and Hove is on the south coast of England and has a population of over 450,000 people. It is famous for its large lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population and has, for many years, attracted people with a desire to live within a community that is based on tolerance of a variety of sexualities and gender identities.

Despite the relative affluence of the area, Brighton and Hove has pockets of acute deprivation and faces challenges associated with a transient population of young people. When Right Here Brighton and Hove was established in 2009, local stakeholders identified that the thresholds for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) were too high, which meant that most young people were only able to access help in times of acute crisis. This left young people with lower-level emotional problems without help or support. There were a number of specialist services for young people in Brighton and Hove, but young people found it hard to find their way to the right one. 

There were also significant gaps around the prevention of mental ill health and early intervention for young people who were facing difficulties.

The young people

Right Here Brighton and Hove identified a wide range of groups as being at risk of developing mental health problems and therefore worthy of support: young people who are unemployed; young parents; young carers; those that have been bullied; those who are isolated, homeless or separated from families; substance misusers; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (non-binary, non-straight) young people; those with physical and/or learning disabilities; young offenders; young people in or leaving care; young asylum seekers and refugees; and black and minority ethnic (BME) young people in need of support. 

In the event, the project did not work intensively with all of its target groups, although the spectrum of young people attending the project’s events was wide and included those who are NEET, young parents, LGBTU, BME, homeless, and young carers.

What they did

Right Here in Brighton and Hove involved young people in co-producing services, opportunities, research and campaigns through three separate groups of young volunteers, each with responsibility for working with Right Here staff on a different area of activity.

Activities volunteers helped to develop, deliver and coordinate the core resilience-building activities the project ran to improve young people’s wellbeing in Brighton and Hove. The volunteers were responsible for designing the programme of events and courses and commissioning the contractors who delivered the activities, including control of the budget. The resilience-building activities included free, one-off and multi-session creative arts, group work and sport activities, ‘Walk and Talk’ targeting socially anxious young people, and the city’s only anger management course for 16–25 year olds.

Research and evaluation volunteers undertook two important peer-led research studies, outlined below.

Self-harm research (2013): This research explored perceptions among young people and the professionals who work with them at volunteer-led focus groups. The research resulted in a full report and support guide.

Young people’s views and experiences of GP services in relation to emotional and mental health (2011): This research found that 48 per cent of young people interviewed did not feel comfortable talking to their GP about emotional and mental health issues, and 41 per cent did not know what was confidential when visiting their GP.

This research was presented to the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the NHS Locality Meeting for GPs and the Royal College of GPs, and has resulted in changes to local GP surgeries and the children’s hospital, as well as training by the young volunteers for GPs, practice staff and student GP registrars in how to better communicate with young people about their mental health and emotional wellbeing.

The team also visited local surgeries to assess how young-person friendly they were and produced a short film called How Can I...? (2012) to help young people know the level of service they can expect from their GP.

Mental health promotion volunteers focused on awareness-raising campaigns to improve understanding of wellbeing and mental health. They also undertook a variety of initiatives to raise awareness of available services for young people, including the successful ‘Where to go for ...’ website, a one-stop shop containing over 100 support services for young people in the area.

In 2013, the group facilitated focus groups with parents and carers of young people with mental health issues and with the young people themselves, resulting in a new support guide for parents to help them support their children who are struggling with mental health issues.

Resources

Material produced by the project included a leaflet, "What can I do when it comes to...", a mini wellbeing guide, and a mug distributed to GPs, on which the young people had printed "The Right Here guide to being a youth-friendly practice".

The project was also a vital part of the development of Doc Ready, one of the seven projects that formed the Innovation Labs initiative to develop new digital tools to support young people’s mental health. Doc Ready is an HTML5 app that helps young people prepare for the visit to the GP to discuss mental health. It was informed by the project’s work with GPs, and young volunteers from the project were involved at all stages of development.

What’s happening now?

Right Here Brighton and Hove continues as part of a community project’s programme run by YMCA Downslink Group. Young people are contributing insights and skills gained from their Right Here experience to a variety of new programmes commissioned by the CCG and the local authority, including an ongoing programme of resilience-building activities and a young men’s health champions programme. Right Here Brighton and Hove has also spawned a new project, Right Here in West Sussex, which provides activities and resources for young people aged 15–18.

Read more about Right Here and making youth work led mental health for young people a reality.