World Mental Health Day and the impacts on young people

The arrival of World Mental Health Day on 10th October provides us all with an additional and very welcome opportunity to reflect on mental health in more detail. Awareness and knowledge around mental health care has been increasing over recent years but there is still stigma attached to mental health and people with mental health issues still do not necessarily receive the care and support that they require. There’s been promising moves and talk recently around creating parity between mental and physical health and bringing all the key stakeholders together to deal with issues. However, there is still much work to be done to ensure the positive ambitions that have been set out are actually achieved in reality.

At Ecorys, we are particularly aware from our evaluations, how issues relating to mental health and wellbeing impact younger people in society. We’ve worked on projects looking at dealing with stigma in schools, providing approaches to increasing resilience and online initiatives to improve wellbeing. This has given us a deep understanding not only of the urgent need to deal with mental health issues but also around the policies needed to make a difference. 

Together with individual, family and community support networks, schools and colleges play an important role in the mental health of children and young people. They can reinforce mental wellbeing by nurturing academic resilience, developing social and life skills and offering welfare and health services where these are needed. Research shows the value of whole school and systemic approaches to promoting health and wellbeing, in achieving effective outcomes.

However, we are aware that this is not the full story. The situation and needs of young people can differ considerably and each school or college has varying ways of working. As a result, there is much work to be done to understand exactly what approaches work best for different people in different settings.  

In light of this, Ecorys Policy and Research are proud to have been appointed to evaluate the Mental Health Services and Schools Link programme. This programme is funded by the Department of Education and aims to improve partnership working between Education services and Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYMPHS) via a set of initial workshops. It is being delivered by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and will work across 20 areas, reaching a potential 1,200 schools and colleges and builds on a successful pilot in 2015/16 which was also evaluated by Ecorys.

We’re particularly excited to be working on this evaluation as the  programme is based around genuinely testing and learning about what works best in different contexts and assessing what promising practices can be developed and adopted across a range of areas. This involves a real need for the evaluation to dig deep and understand the intersection between the overall programme, the approach adopted in each school, college or area and the particular context surrounding each approach. While this makes the evaluation challenging, it also makes it possible to get to the granular level of information that is so crucial.

We’ll be ready to report findings in 2019 but we’re also looking forward to helping develop and provide findings and learnings throughout the course of the programme to help stakeholders and participants.  This cumulative evaluation process of testing, learning and sharing what works on a regular basis is an excellent way of helping provide meaningful solutions to mental health issues and hence genuinely benefit the younger members of our society.

For more information please contact Diarmid Campbell-Jack