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Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

Building emotional resilience in young people across the capital

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

Earlier this year Community Links were hugely excited to announce being awarded, by the Department of Health (DH), the opportunity to lead the highly innovative peer mentoring project, More than Mentors, which started its delivery in schools within the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. Since this announcement we have also started work in the London Boroughs of Hackney and Haringey, and are reaching out to other schools and community youth groups to offer this crucial work in differing and diverse settings across the Capital.

Addressing the current crisis in young people’s mental health and focusing on building resilience 

Over recent years it has become increasingly evident that young people’s mental health needs to be seen as a priority for both health and educational services. Escalating demand against insufficient capacity within current services has created a growing crisis in mental health. As highlighted in our report: ‘Thriving Minds: Acting early on mental health’, the current crisis in mental health is as much a social crisis, as a medical or funding crisis. Mental health underpins so many aspects of our lives that, in order to tackle the causes of poor mental health, we need a far-ranging response beyond simply reforming mental health services. We need effective, evidence-based initiatives in the community that can deliver more preventative support and are focused on building resilience.

More than Mentors is a new and creative model of peer mentoring, which has been co-designed and co-delivered as a pilot study in east London. Through the Department of Health’s “health and social care volunteer fund” Community Links has been invited to take the lead in rolling this programme out in 5 boroughs across the capital – with Jo Richardson Community School and Eastbury Community School, both in London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, being the first schools where we have successfully delivered this intervention.

Building on this success, we are now not only continuing to work within these 2 schools, but have also brought on board 4 more secondary schools in Barking and Dagenham with whom we shall be working over the next academic year. With the support of the Barking and Dagenham CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) and the Education department within the local authority we are aspiring to offer this programme in every secondary school within the borough by the time the project has been completed in March 2019.

But we have also begun working in the London boroughs of Hackney and Haringey, and will be offering this More than Mentors approach within both boroughs in schools and youth groups, build the evidence base for its impact and demonstrating the wider need.

More than Mentors draws on the best evidence from across the field, exploring peer mentoring as a way of preventing significant mental health conditions in young people. Peer mentoring – where older adolescents support their younger peers – has been shown to prevent the development of mental health problems in research studies. However, frequently in practice, little attention is given to the evidence around recruitment, training and support of these volunteer mentors. Community Links, with a wider partnership team (including East London Foundation Trust and the Anna Freud Centre) are working with adolescent volunteer through to commissioners, to further co-develop, test, evaluate and subsequently disseminate an approach which sustainably delivers an effective voluntary peer mentoring workforce across London.

Rolling out More than Mentors across the capital

The More than Mentors delivery team, based at Community Links, are now busy training peer mentors, supporting peer mentoring and will soon be Training the Trainers as More than Mentors youth practitioners. The programme strives to prevent future mental health conditions in young people, and to ensure those who are struggling are able to access the support available across schools and community settings within the capital. By supporting students earlier, we are addressing early markers for mental health conditions such as depression, stress and anxieties, reducing associated symptoms and supporting students in feeling able to overcome everyday pressures. Furthermore, by connecting with the local transformation agenda for Children and Young People’s mental health services, we will also look to support the development of an approach that is focused on building resilience in young people.

The More than Mentors programme

This programme trains young people aged 14-18 years old in schools and community settings such as youth clubs, to become peer mentors through a 2-day/5 session accredited (NOCN) programme of learning. Mentors are then able to offer a 10-week programme of support for mentees (aged 11-16 years old) – a programme that offers both one-to-one support and group-based, positive activities. The mentors and mentees are supported throughout the programme by experienced More than Mentors Youth Practitioners and a mental health specialist. At all stages the mentors are supervised and supported in their development as a mentor, ensuring that they can offer guidance and support to their mentees.

More than Mentors is an ambitious programme, which aims to support many young people across the capital by taking a new and innovative approach. Our first 2 schools have allowed us to work with 40 young people so far. But now, we are hoping to involve up to 400 young people over this coming academic year – having a real impact on how we support young people and build their resilience. We are keen to keep you informed of how the work is progressing. We will be sharing regular blog posts so that young people and professionals can read about the project, and hear what young people and wider stakeholders feel about the work and its impact within their schools and communities. These are exciting times for Community Links, and we are looking forward to sharing this important work with you.

If you are interested in learning more about More than Mentors, then please get in touch;

Jason Turner – Project manager

Nick Barnes – Strategic lead advisor for More than Mentors

We can’t address ‘the burning injustice of mental illness’ without proper social investment

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

Yesterday Theresa May made some welcome announcements about the government’s future direction on preventing mental illness and promoting positive mental health.

She rightly identified that not only is mental health a social justice issue, but that the best way to improve it is by making it “an everyday concern for all of us, and in every one of our institutions”. Taking an early action approach is therefore imperative to preventing mental illness, and in doing so “transforming the way we deal with mental health problems at every stage of a person’s life”. In doing so she recognises, rhetorically at least, that the current crisis in mental health is as much a social crisis as a medical or funding crisis.

Thriving Minds: Acting early on mental health

Just before Christmas the Early Action Task Force published its latest report looking at how we can act earlier on mental health. Central to the argument of Thriving Minds is that as mental health underpins so many aspects of our lives, we need a far ranging response that goes beyond simply reforming mental health services.

A useful way of thinking about this was best put by report co-author Rosie Hayes, when she asked is mental illness the ‘Great Stink’ of our time? She highlighted that since the 19th century the government has recognised the benefit of investing in physical infrastructure such as the sewer system to improve public physical health, arguing that today we face a comparable situation in mental health. Therefore, similarly to the areas identified by the Prime Minister, we argue in Thriving Minds that schools, the workplace, communities, money, and the criminal justice system are important areas for early action beyond – and in collaboration with – mental health services.

We would also add private renting to the Prime Minister’s list, as renters are 75% more likely to experience serious anxiety and depression than homeowners. This is largely down to insecurity in the private rented sector, itself a consequence of unaffordability, short-term tenures, and poor living conditions. If we don’t tackle these issues – and the issues identified in the other 5 areas mentioned above – then it is unlikely we will be able to prevent mental illness, let alone promote positive mental health. Legislative approaches like those found in Scotland with the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 and more local initiatives like co-regulation of private landlords are promising starts, but more must be done.

Was it all just rhetoric?

As other commentators have pointed out, we should be sceptical of these pledges – however welcome they are on the surface – when previous governments have at best consistently failed on mental health provision and, at worst, actively damaged it with cuts. David Robinson wrote on our blog yesterday that announcements like this – and Blair’s “Giving Age” – are sometimes pure rhetoric entirely lacking in policy substance. The mere fact that mental health was given such prominence in the Prime Minister’s first proper speech on social policy makes us optimistic, but equally we are wary about aspirational announcements with no new money to back them up. Only time will tell how serious this government really is about addressing our current mental health crisis and, ultimately, long-term investment in key social infrastructure such as schools, the workplace, and communities is the most likely thing to yield a triple dividend: enabling people to lead thriving lives, costing less, and contributing more.

Six ways society can act earlier for mental health

Friday, November 25th, 2016

On the 9th December, the Early Action Task Force will be publishing its newest report: ‘Thriving Minds: Acting Early on Mental Health‘. Within the report we’ve focused on six areas, although we could have doubled this list as mental health runs through everything in a circle of cause and effect. Below is a snapshot of our thinking on how society can act early on mental health.

 photo Six ways to act early on mental health_zpsndcbvjeb.jpg
1. Education

Half of all diagnosable mental health conditions in adults begin before the age of 14

Given the above statistic, our school years present a significant opportunity to promote positive mental health early. School can take measures to promote positive mental health, such as the whole-school approach of the Mancroft Advice Project. Local and central governments also need to ensure that their policies are focused on promoting positive mental health in children through collaboration with local services and reducing the pressure of exams.

2. Work

Mental health problems account for 47% of long term absences from work

If people felt they wouldn’t be stigmatised for having a mental health problem, they’d be much more likely to disclose this and take time off earlier to prevent their mental health from reaching crisis point. Training in Mental Health First Aid can aid understanding and reduce stigma, whilst organisational approaches such as ‘happier@work’ can make workplaces a more mentally positive place to be. Of course, some people may still fall ill and need time off work, so it’s also important that employment support services are tailored to those with mental health needs to enable them to get back into sustainable, good quality work.

3. Money

Problem debt makes a person twice as likely to develop a mental health problem

At present, a significant number of people are caught up in a vicious cycle of mental health problems and problem debt. By reducing the amount of problem debt people take on, improving early access to advice, and changing debt collection practices, we can act earlier to ensure the cycle is broken. CAB’s ‘Healthy Advice’ scheme is a good example of how services are innovating to ensure they are reaching the people who need advice as early as possible.

4. Criminal Justice

90% of prisoners have a mental health problem

The criminal justice system is host to many people at the sharp end of the collective failure to act earlier for mental health. Yet the system can play a role in creating an alternative for these people. We’ve come across excellent examples of Street Triage and Liaison & Diversion schemes which divert people away from the criminal justice system and into the care they need. Acting earlier also means making prisons mentally healthy environments, so they aren’t creating or exacerbating mental health problems for offenders who will eventually leave prison. Finally, the majority of offenders do not go to prison, so it is important that probation services are equipped to provide support in the community, as well as ensuring offenders are ready to re-enter society.

5. Housing

Renters are 75% more likely to experience serious anxiety and depression than homeowners

Insecurity in the private rented sector, as a result of a lack of affordability, short-term tenures, and poor conditions, is a significant damaging factor to private renters’ mental health. Accordingly, it is important that these issues are tackled in order to reduce the likelihood of mental illness and promote positive mental health – the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 is a promising start but more needs to be done.

6. Communities

Chronic loneliness is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day

Local services can play an important role in preventing loneliness and fostering social connection, ranging from highly formal services explicitly aimed at connecting people, to the more incidental connections that are created through the varied community spaces and events that we might engage with on a day to day basis for other purposes entirely. Building these connections can positively influence the way that we think about ourselves and our communities, in turn promoting better mental health, as demonstrated by Haringey Thinking Space.


It is evident that if we are to act earlier to promote positive mental health, we need to be acting before people need to engage with mental health services. In order to achieve this, it is essential that we recognise the current crisis in mental health as a social crisis, as opposed to simply a healthcare crisis. In acknowledging that mental health is everyone’s responsibility, sectors should act together to share the cost of early action, as well as the resultant benefits – the triple dividend of enabling people to lead thriving lives, whilst costing less to public services and contributing more to our economy.

If you’re interested in the ideas we’ve raised here and would like to know more, please sign up to our mailing list to ensure you receive a link to the report when it is published. You can also attend our discussion on early action for mental health, hosted by the Big Lottery Fund, on Friday 9th December from 9.30am-12pm. For further information and to register for a free ticket, please visit our Eventbrite page.

Is mental illness the “Great Stink” of our times?

Monday, October 10th, 2016

Last week, we argued that investment in social infrastructure is equally important as investing in physical infrastructure for our economy. Today, on World Mental Health Day, it seems appropriate to explore how early action can be applied to mental health – and how this can create better outcomes and deliver significant savings too.

The ‘Great Stink’ of London. Image by David Holt.

Since the 19th century, the government has recognised the benefit of investing in public health. The “Great Stink” of 1858 led Victorian reformers to make the case for investing in public sewage systems – physical infrastructure that enabled healthier lifestyles and reduced the significant costs of disease. These reformers recognised that poor public health not only had a terrible human cost, it was also bad for the economy as people were less able to work.

Today, we are facing a comparable situation in mental health. Mental health problems represent the largest single cause of disability in the UK, affecting one in four adults and costing the economy around £105 billion a year – roughly the cost of the entire NHS. Yet mental health budgets in the NHS and Public Health remain low, and despite mental health gaining increasing prominence in the public realm there still seems to be little recognition from other sectors that mental health is also their concern.

We’re making the argument for society to act earlier – by acting before mental illness occurs and stepping in quickly when problems arise – ensuring people are ready to both deal with setbacks and seize opportunities for flourishing lives. We’ve realised that many of the broad tenets of early action can be applied specifically to mental health, some of which are outlined below.

Make mental health everyone’s responsibility

A key ingredient for effective early action is breaking down siloes and promoting ‘joined-up’ services. To ensure that support is provided at the right time it is crucial that mental health is seen as everyone’s responsibility – embedded at every scale and in every activity. Whether it’s by placing talking therapies within the community like Haringey Thinking Space, taking mental health into schools like Mancroft Advice Project, or addressing mental health in the workplace like happier@work, it is clear that extending mental health beyond the health sector enables earlier action to support people’s positive mental wellbeing. We are not arguing here that all service professionals, for example, should be experts in mental illness and therefore able to deal with acute mental distress: that is the remit of referral routes and specialist services. However, we are saying that everyone should have some understanding of good mental health, ensuring that those who don’t qualify for specialist support aren’t neglected until they reach the point of crisis.

Focus on transitions throughout the life course

In our previous early action work, we’ve talked about the need to focus on transitions throughout the life course. Some of these transitions are universal, such as starting school or work, or facing retirement, whilst others are experienced by particular groups, such as leaving care, having a child, or leaving prison. People can be particularly vulnerable at these transition points if they are not prepared for them, and this can negatively affect their mental health. Ensuring people are prepared to face these transitions not only means they are resilient to such shocks, but also that they are ready to seize opportunities when they arise. Not only can this deliver savings as people are less likely to suffer mental health problems, it can also stimulate growth in the economy – as Cliff Prior argued in our blog series, a Question of Growth, with regards to supporting people back into work.

Make ‘deep value’ relationships central to delivering services

Whilst researching for our case study gallery, we have constantly been hearing about the importance of long-term, trusting, and compassionate relationships between service providers and recipients – what we call ‘deep value’ relationships. This can take a variety of forms, such as the peer-mentoring undertaken by SOS Project or the long-term relationships that Includem builds with young people. It appears that these type of relationships make interventions more effective because they have the underlying benefit of improving people’s mental wellbeing, often relating to their confidence and self-esteem. Tellingly, the standards for ‘enabling environments’ created by the Royal College of Psychiatrists to promote positive mental wellbeing in any setting, including schools, hospitals and prisons, state that the ‘nature and quality of relationships are of primary importance’.

The case for early action on mental health

It appears that we are facing our own version of the “Great Stink” today, as the public increasingly recognises the crucial importance of positive mental health and the current crisis in mental health care. We believe that an early action perspective on mental health presents the moral and economic case for investment, and the themes above indicate the beginnings of what our social infrastructure could look like.

We’ll be building on this work in our upcoming themed paper on mental health, following on from ‘Secure and Ready’ and ‘Looking Forward to Later Life’. The series aims to provoke new ways of thinking and acting earlier, beyond just the realm of experts already working in and around the topic. To support this aim, we are exploring mental health through the settings of education, work, money, housing, communities, and criminal justice. If you would like to discuss the report further with us, or you have any interesting case studies you think we should feature, please do get in touch.

Champions of the Shengha

Monday, September 26th, 2016

You could be looking at  the game Champions of the Shengha and the book “Change the world for a fiver” for quite some time before you noticed any connection. That is exactly how we would want it to be.

Both are bright, attractive and original products highly competitive and desirable in their own markets but there is more: both are explicitly designed to drive positive behaviour change, to influence social and cultural norms and to help prevent complex, expensive problems.

The first was a little book that reached number 3 in the Sunday Times best seller list and sold over one million copies in 2004. It was effectively 50 public service announcements presented in a style that was modern, engaging, irreverent, challenging and fun. It was produced by the then new Community Links project called We Are What We Do and was probably the first consumer product explicitly designed to “nudge” – to change behaviour but not through threat or exhortation. Steve Hilton was one of the volunteers who helped with the creative work. He was so inspired by the idea that when he rocked up at No 10 as David Cameron’s principal adviser six years later he established, in Downing Street, the government’s own Behavioural Change Unit

The equally successful and ground breaking “I’m not a plastic bag” designer tote bag followed – a collaboration with market leader Anya Hindmarch. Gradually our learning and thinking advanced and the products and the process became more subtle and sophisticated.  The project became an independent social enterprise applying a, by now, well tested  and rigorous research, design and venture building process to issues like mental illness, poor diets, social isolation and energy inefficiency. We Are What We Do changed its name to Shift, I am still the chair and Champions of the Shengha is our latest offering.

We have been developing “Champions” through our purpose built BfB Labs. Here we have been pioneering emotionally responsive gaming as a way to increase resilience to mental health problems amongst young people. After 3 years of R&D, we are launching our first product today. Champions of the Shengha, trains and rewards players for controlling their emotional state. This is tracked through a unique wireless wearable device which we call the BfB Sensor. Our recent independent clinical trial on the game not only showed that participants loved playing it, but that it could effectively train emotional regulation skills and that the young people quickly started to apply these skills in their everyday lives.

We think the game is groundbreaking and the potential is huge. Online gaming is an enormous market. Many of the existing games are compelling, even addictive. Clear and uncontested evidence shows that regular playing of these games affects our behaviour and damages our mental health particularly in the vulnerable adolescent years. Champions of the Shenga doesn’t just mitigate these dangers it turns them upside down – it is also compelling and fun and commercially competitive but it builds rather than reduces the players emotional resilience and it improves rather than damages their mental health.

We are launching Champions through crowdfunding on Indiegogo  today. It may all seem a long way from Community Links and a funny little book but its roots are here and its purpose is our purpose. Please take a look at  Indiegogo, join us if you possibly can and be sure to spread the word.

A Question of Growth

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

This blog is written by Cliff Prior, Chief Executive of Big Society Capital, and is the seventh in our “A Question of Growth” series. Over the next few weeks we will be posting a new piece every Tuesday and Thursday. You can read all of the previous blogs in this series here.


Working out what good our actions will achieve in the long run is highly speculative. The world is not linear. Plenty of good intentions prove to have bad consequences: biofuel planting that puts up food prices for the poor, medicines like thalidomide that have savage unintended effects, government targets that drive appalling behaviour like the ambulances waiting in the carpark to avoid triggering the 4 hour trolley wait.

The world is, in reality, a spider’s web of interlinked strands. Pull one in the direction you want, and plenty others get distorted out of place. Good growth is seen in hindsight. We used to quote Zhou Enlai saying about the French revolution, “it’s too early to tell” – and now we know he didn’t even mean that after all. Hindsight…

And that’s before all the challenges of turning “good” into any kind of economic answer – particularly when any benefits are dispersed over different areas, different Government departments or families and communities, cashable versus virtual savings, questions of attribution and contribution, the burden and complexity of data collection.

But despite the difficulties, good growth is sometimes overwhelmingly clear in its value. Mental health is one of the most compelling cases.

For some time, the Government has committed to a mantra of “No health without mental health”. Their economic case for this is powerful. Estimated annual costs for key conditions include: depression £7.5 billion, anxiety £8.9 billion, schizophrenia £6.7 billion. At each stage of the conditions, from positive promotion through early identification and intervention, there are solutions which can make huge savings to health and social care, and generate substantial gains – good growth – in greater employment and social contribution.

Going earlier in the journey of life, the Analysis of the Impact on Equality (AIE) gives estimates of net savings to the Exchequer from providing parent-training programmes to cohorts of children with conduct disorders. Many of the benefits from childhood interventions extend into adult life. Total gross savings over 25 years have been estimated at £9,288 per child and exceed the average cost of the intervention by a factor of around eight to one.

All good, all important. But the financial costs are only part of the story. A child of between 3 and 8 years showing antisocial behaviour costs £5960 a year. Part is on NHS and social services provision, but the lion’s share of the cost is on the family.

Premature mortality is a well-known phenomenon among people with severe mental health problems, with an average reduction in life expectancy of 15 years for women, 20 years for men, compared to the general population. That is worse than long term smoking. These are human costs, and human losses on an appalling scale.

People with untreated mental health problems stand much less chance of employment. Less chance to support a family. Less chance of living a good old age. Less chance of contributing to “good growth”.

So why are the preventative and early intervention approaches not used widely?

Cost is a glib answer. The cost of double running – prevention and care – is a more solid one. The quantum of intervention is another – you have to get to a substantial scale of benefit before you can close a hospital ward or clinic, and even then the closure may jeopardise the viability of the wider institution. Lack of trust that the benefits will really flow. The knowledge that there are thousands more people seeking help who are just below the severity of the people you are working with right now, so do you really make savings or “just” help improve lives?

One of the solutions to these problems is the model of social impact bonds. Investors put up funds to pay the running costs. The agencies delivering the services get paid by the investors. Commissioners commit to pay on results. It helps with the double running. It also commits the commissioners to follow through for a set period of time, allowing the service providers to focus on doing the job and improving their work.

Social impact bonds or SIBs are often seen as over complicated, expensive, clunky models. Meeting people from the charities and social enterprises who have delivered social impact bonds, I hear a very different story: the results are great, the process can be painful, but leaves the agency much stronger to deliver excellent results into the future.

For example, in Newcastle, Ways to Wellness is a Social Impact Bond which is supporting people with long term conditions, often accompanied by anxiety and depression, through social prescribing.  In the model, the health commissioner only pays if individuals’ wellbeing improves and if secondary care use is reduced as a result of better self-management. This approach has enabled upfront investment in preventative support with the aim of avoiding acute care costs down the line.

The Fair Chance Fund uses a SIB model to support homeless, unemployed young people with the commissioner only paying for entry into and sustained education, employment and accommodation. Many of the young people in the programme suffer from mental health problems and the flexible approach of an outcomes contract has allowed the delivery bodies to provide personalised support for those young people, helping them overcome some of those problems and lead a better life. It’s investment for good growth.

Social impact Bonds can also help align funding from different sources for outcomes which fall in the gaps of departmental silos. For example, the Mental Health and Employment SIB in Haringey, Staffordshire and Tower Hamlets seeks to address the employment gap between those with mental health conditions and the wider population. The commissioners of the SIB only pay if job outcomes, including user engagement, are achieved. This outcome focused approach has allowed the providers to deliver Individual Placement Support (IPS) with both local funding as well as top up from central government for the employment outcomes delivered.

Of course SIBs are only one variety of outcomes based funds. And again, they try to convert human suffering – and loss of human contribution – into cash. But that doesn’t mean the human benefits are not there.

So think of the child with a mental health problem, and the life she or he will have if helped or left without help. Think of the family supporting that child, and the life they will have. Think of the future decades of contributing value and feeling esteem through a job, or the damage and cost of long term employment.

Good growth – sometimes you know it when you see it.

Cliff Prior is Chief Executive of Big Society Capital. He originally trained as a scientist and spent over a decade working in health with the NHS Modernisation Board, the Medicines Commission, the Healthcare Commission and others.


Resilience in Mind – early action for mental health

Monday, April 29th, 2013

A guest post from Mind‘s Sarah Holloway:

One in four people has a mental health problem.  But all of us have mental health – something which needs maintaining and looking after.  Our ambition as Mind is to do more to support people before they experience mental health problems, to improve our chances of staying well.  Some people call this early action, others call is prevention, some call it public mental health. It is all of those things, and for us it is about building the resilience of individuals and communities.

For Mind, resilience is not an inherent quality with which you are born. Resilience is not simply an ability to ‘bounce back’, but rather the capacity to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances and adversity, whilst maintaining a stable mental wellbeing.  We believe that this capacity for resilience needs to come from communities rather than just from individuals in isolation. And furthermore, we believe this capacity can be grown and developed with the right resources.

So what are the right resources? We have undertaken a review of the existing evidence base around prevention and early intervention in mental health. From this evidence review we identified three key elements which we believe should be part of any resilience building projects, as set out in the model below and the diagram above.

  • Promoting wellbeing  – Our resilience work will draw on everything we know from the 5 ways to wellbeing project and will include a particular focus on positive activities including gardening and exercising outdoors that are known to drive wellbeing.
  • Building social capital and networks – Good quality human relationships are key to our capacity to respond to adversity and challenge, while social isolation is a major risk factor for poor mental health.  Support from social networks and communities is so crucial to positive mental health that it merits a focus of its own in our model of resilience building.
  • Learning about mood and mind – Why do we wait until we are unwell to learn about how our minds work, what influences our mood, and how we can optimise our psychological functioning? We want to promote insight into the mind and psychological coping strategies and in order to do this will draw on different disciplines, such as mindfulness,  positive psychology and cognitive behaviour therapy.

Supported by Peoples Health Trust, our local Mind resilience programme will put these concepts into practice, piloting new ways of delivering all three resilience building blocks in one targeted intervention. The programme consists of nine pilot projects delivered by local Minds across England and Wales. The pilots are working with two groups of people who are likely to need additional support to look after their mental health and wellbeing:

  • unemployed men
  • pregnant women and new mothers.

What unites these two groups is the sense of transition and also a significant change in identity. These big life changes – either the loss of a job, or the transition to parenthood – also bring with them the prospect of isolation as people may lose touch with the social structures they are used to. While we recognise that the approaches needed to effectively reach out to and sustain the engagement of these two audiences are very different,  we believe the same three resilience building blocks will help them to stay well – engagement in positive activities, support to build social connections and support to learn about mood and mind.

And a key part of all these nine pilot projects will be outreach.  Early action involves taking support to where people are rather than waiting for them to come to you. In most cases, by the time people choose to approach a local Mind for support, it is already too late for early action.  Therefore the local Minds delivering these projects are collaborating with trusted community partners, for example Sure Start centres, housing associations and employment training providers.

In partnership with our evaluators (from Leeds Metropolitan University and University of Chester) we hope to draw valuable learning from each of the pilot projects about how best to support people before they become unwell. And we really want to share this learning with the Early Action community. We are also really interested in your ideas on how we can build on these pilots to improve the mental health of whole communities, and would welcome any questions, thoughts or queries you have on our work. Please get in touch via

Youth advice improves mental health

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Any charity providing advice on issues like benefits, debt, or housing will tell you it has the power to transform lives, that its impact extends far beyond the transactional exchange of information, that it is an indispensable public service . But ask us for robust evidence and we’ll look guiltily away. There is scant research into the impact of advice, particularly on factors beyond the immediate issues at stake. In straightened times with funding scarce this is more desperately needed than ever.

That’s why the excellent Youth Access‘ frequent research reports are so valuable. Their latest, released today, was carried out by respected legal researchers from UCL, who surveyed almost 200 young people accessing advice services around the country, looking at their mental health, the impact of advice, and costs this saved other public services.

Shockingly they found that levels of mental illness amongst young people seeking advice were higher even than levels found amongst rough sleepers. Forty five percent of clients reported their health as suffering as a result of social welfare problems, and 26% had visited a doctor or counsellor.

They found that a young person with a social welfare problem relating to housing or money has typically already cost local health services, housing services and social services around £13,000 before finding their way to an advice service, suggesting considerable scope for acting earlier.

And they found that “A typical advice intervention in a youth advice setting costs under £100, after which seventy per cent of young people report improvements in their mental and/or physical health. The analysis indicates that the resulting savings in GP costs alone are likely to exceed the cost of the advice intervention.”

So youth advice is desperately needed, is cheap and saves money for other public services, and could be done even better earlier. Yet, as Youth Access found when they surveyed youth advice charities a couple of months ago, almost half are experiencing cuts this year compared to last, most compounding cuts in previous years. Rigorous research, widely disseminated, has never been more important.