young mental healthMental health-informed youth work is an approach that can complement and supplement more traditional medically-based services, a series of new articles has claimed.

The articles focus on new approaches to young people’s mental health and draw on the evaluation and experiences of the 5-year Right Here project, which was funded by the 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.  

Co-written by Susan Blishen, project lead for Right Here, and Mark Brown, development director of Social Spider, a regular consultant to the programme, the articles aim to provide fresh insights into what does and does not work in the youth mental health field and make a strong case for mental health informed youth work to complement more traditional medically-based services.

“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,” said Blishen. “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.” 

Jenny Edwards, CEO of the Mental Health Foundation said: “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.”

Rob Bell, director of strategy at the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, said: “Young people’s mental health and wellbeing 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.”

Lily Blackmore, a young volunteer at Right Here Brighton and Hove, talked about the effect the project had on her: “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.”

The articles can be accessed here.