timetochangeA pilot project that saw people with experience of mental ill health deliver training sessions as well as a social marketing campaign has helped to improve young people’s attitudes towards mental ill health.

The pilot, which was run by anti-stigma campaigning group Time to Change, was aimed at 14- to 18-year-olds in the West Midlands. It resulted in a 1.3% improvement in attitudes and a 6% reduction in discrimination over an 18-month period, according to Time to Change’s evaluation of it.

Time to Change’s research also found that the confidence and empowerment of young people with experience of mental health problems to challenge stigma for themselves increased by nearly 7%. Furthermore, half of all young people surveyed regardless of whether they had experienced mental ill health, agreed that attitudes have changed around mental illness in Birmingham.

The pilot was launched in April 2012 to find out what impact a focused programme of work to reach 14 to 18-year-olds could have. These results and learning from this pilot are being taken forward in the next pilot area, which focuses on Kent and Medway.

Fully involved

As part of the West Midlands pilot project, 60 young people with experience of mental ill health were involved at every level. They were trained and supported to co-deliver education sessions, speak to the media, help evaluate the project and volunteer at events. Other work included: 

A social marketing campaign including the three minute film Stand Up Kid 

An education programme aimed at youth professionals and volunteers, co-delivered by young people with experience of mental ill health

Community events including ‘pop up villages’ in schools that encourage conversations to happen about mental health in typical village settings.

Further work also saw qualitative and quantitative research being conducted with more than 500 parents and guardians to look at how they view themselves as influencers in their children’s lives. 

The results found that parents recognised their responsibility in shaping attitudes but felt unsure how to do this as they believed their children and other young people knew more about mental health problems than they did. The research also found that parents are unsure about how or where to have these conversations with time being limited in hectic family life. Using the results from this study a range of information and advice for parents was developed as part of the project.

Jo Loughran, head of Time to Change’s children and young people’s programme, said: “These evaluation results have shown us that it is possible to transform the attitudes of young people in relation to mental health, in order to shape the next generation. One in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem, that’s three people in every classroom, and it’s crucial that support is available when they need it, without fear of stigma and discrimination.

“In general, young people seem to engage well with the idea of challenging unfairness so we are looking forward to delivering more anti-stigma work over the next 18 months with our army of young people by our side.”

New pilot 

The Kent and Medway pilot will be officially launched on November 5 at The Oval in London. Much like the work in the West Midlands, activity will include: a social marketing campaign; Time to Change Village events; ‘Train the Trainer’ sessions with stakeholders and parents; and work to encourage organisations to sign the Time to Change pledge, committing to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination in the workplace. 

In addition, Time to Change has received extra funding from Big Lottery Fund to offer a programme of activities, based on elements of the pilot, to five secondary schools per term across five new regions. Schools will be asked to develop an action plan to provide a year-long anti-stigma programme that will reach all students.