September’s Health and Wellbeing Board was very different to the norm.
The Board was ‘taken over’ by SHAPE; Sandwell Councils initiative led by Neesha Patel to listen to the voice of children and young people. The programme focuses on 5 outcomes; Staying Safe, Being Healthy, Enjoying and Achieving, Making a Positive Contribution and Economic Wellbeing.
We then heard from the People’s Parliament, a strategic body led by MPs with recent lived experience of mental health difficulties. They hold decision makers to account for improving services and support people to have greater control over their own mental health and wellbeing.
SHAPE co-designed their workshop with 10 young people, some who had lived experience of mental health and wellbeing issues. It focused on case-studies which prompted board members to really consider whether the services they are currently commissioning are really making a difference to local young people. After each case-study young people got up and spoke to the Board, giving a summary and recommendations for change.
The young people think that mental health issues among their age group are getting worse and they provided the following reasons as a possible cause:
- Too much pressure on young people during exam season, they are expected to do well and some end up being scared to sit exams as a result.
- Being overweight/obese can affect your mental health.
- Being focused on your image can adversely affect your mental health.
- Young People aren’t educated enough on how to look after their own mental health.
- Social media is a heavy influence on young people
Some of the young people had lived experience of being in the mental health ‘system’ and made the following observations about Children and Adolescent mental health service or CAMHS:
- Long waits, at least 3 to 4 months on a list
- They are reactive, should be more proactive
- Poor follow ups
Young people Recommendations
- The board should prioritise mental health
- Current priorities of the board are too vague and aren’t measureable.
- They think that mental health services could be improved by focusing on mental health in school and by offering more 1 to 1 sessions within the services.
- Improve awareness of services for young people
- Section of A&E for people struggling with their mental health with trained staff (a place of safety)
- A separate area for children to feel safe and supported
- Awareness that young people find it difficult to navigate the mental health system – some clarity of governance of current mental health strategy and leadership is required
- Knowledge of current services is low and could be better coordinated
- Bereavement and grief should also be tackled as a mental health issue and young people need more support to deal with this.
We then heard from a lady who is an MP with the People’s Parliament. The lady suffered from mental health difficulties and did a really good job of telling the board about their approach which includes:
- The need for greater parity between mental and physical health.
- We must find innovative and creative ways to challenge stigma.
- Recovery informs all of our work.
- Mental Health Rights are Human Rights Prevention can be naturally created within communities; local people are the catalyst for change
Board members and visitors who attended to be a part of the take-over told me what a valuable and needed meeting this was and we have a number of discussion points that were raised by both the young people and the Parliament that I will be taking forward with the Board next year; these include further considering how we can better connect various mental health strands so that everyone understands who does what and how different partners can support local people.
Of course, co-production will help develop this work, ensuring that local people, the voluntary sector and our partners are involved in shaping this important work.
Below is the graphic art that shows the outcomes of the take-over – thanks to Jane Thakoordin from Changing our Lives for her art skills!