Young people join campaigning politician to shape mental health strategy


Posted on 3 November 2017 (Permalink)

The Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP was alongside young people and cross-sector representatives recently, discussing strategy to prevent mental ill-health at a recent workshop.

The West Midlands Mental Health Innovation Network (WMMHIN), one of the membership networks of the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN), hosted the event to discuss mental illness prevention approaches and services for children and young people at Walsall FC’s Banks’s Stadium.

In early 2017, the WMAHSN was commissioned by the Birmingham System Strategies Board to develop a strategy report, in partnership with Forward Thinking Birmingham, to develop an integrated systems-wide approach to support the prevention of mental ill-health.  The ‘Getting it Right, First Time – Mental Illness Prevention Strategy’ uses an evidence-based approach underpinned by the key principles of co-design, co-production and sustainability to identify key recommendations for focused work. 

The event, developed and co-facilitated by the young people themselves in their role as WMHASN Young Ambassadors, focused on key priorities of the report and particularly the development of a demonstrator site. 

Dr Peter Lewis, Clinical Lead for Mental Health at WMAHSN, opened the event by speaking about the strategy, the evidence which has given rise to the recommendations and the potential project progress of work within the next six months.

MP and mental health campaigner Norman Lamb then spoke passionately to the 70 delegates of his own son’s experience of mental ill-health, how challenging this can be for young people and how the central involvement of young people is absolutely critical to the success of the project.  “We know that 75% of adult mental ill-health starts before the age of 18 and 50% before the age of 14, so the need to do better in those early years is of critical importance,” Norman told the audience of representatives from the health, emergency services, justice, academic, business, social enterprise and social care sectors.  “Yet we spend about 0.6% of the total NHS budget on children and young people’s mental health.  

“What is exciting about this project is it that is driven by evidence and a determination to evaluate impact of what you’re doing here and in an age where experts agree dedicated,” he added.

Neil Mortimer, Business Manager at WMAHSN, gave a presentation on how disruptive technology could support the delivery of a whole system approach to mental ill-health prevention, giving practical examples of how this had been introduced in the past.

The WMAHSN Young Ambassadors, Bry Hodgetts and Katie Buckingham, then spoke bravely of their own experiences of mental illness, and then along with Layne Bodyen, Cairon McParland, Kate Hetherington-Bakewell and Beth Cumbert, went on to co-facilitate the afternoon’s workshop activities.   The workshop asked delegates to contribute their ideas, approaches and innovations in the delivery of the prevention activity for children and young people, including:

  • Raising awareness about mental health and wellbeing
  • Where this is best placed e.g. schools, home, communities
  • How we could use technology to support and prevent mental ill-health
  • How a whole system prevention approach could be delivered on a local level.

The outcomes of the workshop will be used to inform approaches and ideas for development for the next step in the current programme of work, a feasibility study.  The study will assist in the development of a criteria and identification of a potential demonstrator site within the Birmingham and Solihull area, with the capacity for ‘fast followers’ in other areas of the West Midlands.