Listen and learn: engaging young people, their families and schools in early intervention research

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Abstract

Recent policy guidelines highlight the importance of increasing the identification of young people at risk of developing mental health problems in order to prevent their transition to long-term problems, avoid crisis and remove the need for care through specialist mental health services or hospitalisation. Early awareness of the often insidious behavioural and cognitive changes associated with deteriorating mental well-being, however, is difficult, but it is vital if young people, their families and those who work with them are to be fully equipped with the skills to aid early help-seeking. Our early intervention research continues to highlight the necessity of engaging with and listening to the voices of young people, families and those who work with children and young people, in developing greater understanding of why some young people may be more at risk in terms of their mental health, and to provide children and young people with the best mental health support we can. Collaborative working with young people, their families and those who work with them has been an essential dimension of our youth mental health research in Birmingham, UK, enabling us to listen to the personal narratives of those with lived experience and to work alongside them. This paper highlights some of our key studies and how we have endeavoured to make intra-agency working successful at each stage of the research process through increasing use of digital and youth-informed resources to engage young people: a methodology which continues to inform, guide and develop our early intervention research and implementation.

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