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Engaging with young people to improve mental health services

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Mental health and wellbeing effect all young people in Scotland, and it is high on many MSYP’s agendas. In December 2021, to give MSYPs the opportunity to have their views heard on mental health services, I worked with another former MSYP and the Scottish Government and COSLA’s Children and Young People’s Joint Delivery Board to design and deliver an online consultation workshop.

Consultation workshops are an opportunity for MSYPs to share their own and their constituent’s views on a specific topic. They also facilitate article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), ensuring children have the right to express their views on issues affecting them. As an MSYP I loved taking part in these workshops, as they are a fantastic way to get young people’s voices heard!

The feedback gained from the workshop will be fed back to the Children and Young Peoples Mental Health and Wellbeing Joint Delivery Board. This board is chaired by the Scottish Government and COSLA and oversees all aspects of children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. You can find out more about the work of the board here. I sit on the board alongside two other MSYPs and our role on the board is to ensure that young people’s voices are at the heart of decision making, so we will make sure MSYP’s views are heard!

In this video Erin and Beccie explain a little more about what the Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Joint Delivery Board is.

The workshop focused on three main areas:

  • Engaging young people in decisions and communications about mental health services;
  • young people accessing mental health services;
  • and young people giving feedback about mental health services.

MSYPs were invited to give feedback on each of these topics and share what they think needs to change to improve young people’s experiences of mental health services.

One of the main themes that came across throughout all the discussions was the need to create safe spaces for young people to talk about mental health, which I think is vital if decision-makers are to effectively engage with young people on the topic. If young people don’t feel safe then they won’t share their views, which then defeats the point of consulting them! It was also interesting to hear that young people feel more comfortable sharing their views with other young people, rather than service providers and adults. Therefore, I believe it is important that decision-makers consider this when gathering feedback from young people and think about how they can ensure young people feel safe, and how they involve young people in the delivery of a consultation.

Another key point that came across in the workshops is that young people want the ability to remain anonymous, particularly when giving feedback on services. I think this is a really important point, as young people could be concerned that if they share negative feedback on a service they access then their level of service could be reduced. Although this should never be the case, the ability to remain anonymous gives extra peace of mind to young people. Some young people also told us that they wanted the ability to remain anonymous when accessing services, primarily for fear of family members or friends finding out about their difficulties, which is something services need to consider.

Finally, services need to be accessible in all forms, from the communications that are shared with young people, to the practicalities of accessing services and the way consultations are delivered. This needs to involve service providers offering a range of options to suit the varying needs of young people, options include a blend of online and face to face delivery and services offering to cover travel expenses or provide mobile data were all suggested to help improve the accessibility of services.

I found it really interesting to hear MSYP’s views, and they definitely shared some points I hadn’t heard of before. More consultation workshops will be held with MSYPs on the topic of mental health and wellbeing and there will be more opportunities for MSYPs to share their views on the topic with a range of decision-makers in the future. I can’t wait to see what changes are made to the future delivery of young people’s mental health services after meaningfully consulting young people to hear their views.

By Abbie Wright

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