We set up both an adults and a young person - mental health champions network. In terms of the professional, we have 150 champions over 62 schools who are the 'go to' person for mental health in their setting. The aim of the network is to bridge the gap between mental health services and education settings as well as preventing mental ill health through early intervention, promotion of self care messages and work to reduce stigma.
What We Did
We set up both an adults and a young person – mental health champions network. In terms of the professional, we have 150 champions over 62 schools who are the ‘go to’ person for mental health in their setting. The aim of the network is to bridge the gap between mental health services and education settings as well as preventing mental ill health through early intervention, promotion of self care messages and work to reduce stigma. Champions all wear a yellow lanyard and promote their role in school and on social media. The network meets every 8 weeks to develop various different projects in order to improve our offer for young people. We have a shadow network of young champions ages 14-18. The young ambassadors (they chose that name) are trained to undertake three different functions- to offer informal and formal peer support, to run their own mental health campaigns and to work with services to ensure they are young person friendly and remove barriers for young people accessing mental health services.
Wider Active Support
Lifecycle Primary Care Mental Health service actively attend our network. We have undertaken work around good referrals which has support the service. We have undertaken a training needs audit which was used to design Lifecycles training programme. The governance for the mental health champions network sits with our CYP Wellbeing Alliance which has a variety of different stakeholders who support and endorse the network.
The young people drive every single part of the programme. The hold shared decision making powers. They have chosen their name, how they want to be identified, their own job description, where they meet, what time they meet, what the programme looks like. They fully plan all activity and events that they undertake. The young people created a mental health ‘pledge’ that the adult champions have to sign to become adult champions. This is a set of skills, qualities and attitude that they felt that the adult champions needed to possess to be make change. In all of the projects the young people undertake- they hold the power. They are often given their own budget to manage and they hold the power to make the final decision. The ambassadors sit on the interview panel for new mental health workers and have the same power as the adults in term of decision making.
Looking Back/Challenges Faced
The biggest challenge was asking young people to sign up to something that was so uncertain because of the co-production element. They had nerves and anxieties around what they were being asked to get involved in which we felt we couldn’t answer because they really had to make those decisions themselves. We also faced huge challenges in engaging the correct young people- some of who had experienced services in term of additional support for them to be involved and working to ensure we were triggering them or causing any harm. Their input was invaluable so we needed to ensure our programme was accessible to all young people. We have added ‘participation points’ to our programme to ensure that young people were kept interested in the programme. we found that participation waned at busy times of the year so the points system works to keep interest. Another challenge , not surprisingly, was budget which impacted on staff engagement. We were unable to offer any extra resource for staff to be involved in schools who didn’t see MH as a priority . We had to develop a good business case for staff as to the positive returns they would see in terms of behaviour, attendance and academic achievement. We also found that using evidence around cost/benefit analysis was helpful for prevention- every pound spend by schools on MH promotion will return at least 6 pounds at some point down the line in terms of exclusions/inspections/staff time/ under achievement. We found this message helped those late adopter schools to come on board.
We have an annual recruitment drive which ensures that new young people are recruited to the ambassador programme. Any older ambassadors leaving us are heavily involved in the recruitment and training of the newbies. In terms of staff we write out to schools every 6 months to make sure they always have a mental health champion. We have written the work of the champions into the Healthy Schools guidelines to ensure that schools maintaining the good work they are doing. We are careful to promote all of the good work that the network do to ensure wider support of the network and we regularly feed into strategic/leadership groups and to elected members to ensure that the programme is embedded and supported structurally. As part of the network we deliver training in order to change narratives amongst all school staff about their responsibility toward promoting good mental health. We have now moved to a ratio of one champion per 100 pupils as an aspirational target so that the programme doesn’t fall to one member of staff and that young people have choices about who to go terms of support.
Evaluation (Peer or Academic)
We were cited as an example of good practice by a CQC visit. We are currently exploring formal evaluation options but we regularly collect data and case studies about the impact the network has on staff and young people.
The quality of referrals to MH services have improved Staff feel more confident in promotion good mental health and knowing when and were to refer to. We are making links between schools who are delivering excellent work to improve practice Young ambassadors make their own personal improvements which is measured through skills wheels Young ambassadors are offering peer support daily We collect numbers of Wellbeing Action Plans completed by staff around self- care We collect numbers of ‘Social Prescriptions’ given out by staff as part of MH self care The mental health services have made improvements to their referral form, waiting room, treatment room , website and leaflets following feedback from the ambassadors We have delivered a number of very successful campaigns which have their own evaluation matrix. The ambassadors delivered a MH anti-stigma campaign which generated a huge response on social media The ambassadors hosted a ‘Mental Health Anti-Stigma’ event which was attended by 60 people who all made a MH wish- this event was evaluated separately.
We have delivered presentations to all the local CCGs, at an Alliancing event between the council and CCG, and to all of the group managers of the mental health trusts in the area. As a network we have met with local universities, the CQC and NHS England. We are keen to explore further opportunities to share this work and the learning.
Can you please tell us who your service is commissioned by and provided by?
Provided by Public Health – South Tyneside Council