Children & young people – from addressing self-harm to developing emotional resilience

We know that across South West London (SWL) we have a high number of children who are self-harming, and we want both to address and prevent this by developing consistent wellbeing support and early intervention.
We aim to reduce the number of children self-harming in South West London through a ‘whole system’, multi-agency approach, using health, education and local authority resources to provide support in schools to parents and carers and children and young people.

Since our partnership came together in early 2018 we have established a cluster of schools in each borough that is working with each of our CCGs and with other health agencies and higher education partners to introduce enhanced support for emotional wellbeing. We have also secured funding to establish an innovative ‘trailblazer’ programme to pilot new approaches to working with children and young people to support them to develop resilience and to get easy and rapid access to specialist help if they need it.

Our work is informed by the views and experiences of children, young people, parents and carers, and will continue to be built on this foundation as we take forward this important programme.

How have we involved children, young people, parents and carers?

In the summer of 2018 we engaged children and young people and parents and carers, as well as teachers and schools to examine root causes of self-harm and poor emotional wellbeing, as well as to test a number of potential solutions. We accessed children and young people primarily through voluntary sector organisations and schools in each of the south west London boroughs. We ran 8 meetings and we spoke to 42 young people, and had over 1200 responses to our online survey.

You can read our report of this below which outlines what people told us.

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Download (PDF, 1.15MB)

How have we responded so far?

In response to what we heard we have:

  • Narrowed down our long-list of possible interventions to a shorter list that children, young people, parents, carers and teachers told us would work for them.
  • Developed a diverse model of support that is based outside of a medical environment – in schools – and that includes one-to-one and group sessions for children and young people, online self-help and counselling, an online directory of services and education/training programmes for parents and teachers
  • Secured funding to deliver some innovative ways to deliver emotional wellbeing initiatives through schools, using newly trained mental health support workers who will be based in schools.

What happened next?

We wanted to ensure that children understood what services were available to them. To help achieve this we set out to engage with young people around the language they use to describe mental health and emotional wellbeing, in order to develop effective communications. When communicating with children and young people we have to speak in a language they understand, using words they associate with their own lives and experiences. If we are encouraging them to seek support and change their behaviour, we need to do this in a way which resonates with them.

Insight work with young people in all six boroughs was carried out in May and June 2019 through two rounds of focus groups, ten in total. The objective of the first sessions was to explore how young people understand mental health, how they deal with it and language they associate with it. Focus groups were held with year 5s, year 8s and one session with SEND young people from Carew Academy. We asked year 5s and SEND young people how they would define words like sad and happy, as well as worried or stressed and asked them to describe photos depicting young people in a variety of scenarios. We asked year 8s much broader questions about how they feel about the world around them and what ‘health’ and ‘mental health’ mean to them.

The application of this learning was to develop a campaign to encourage 11-18 year olds to use an online mental health services called Kooth through schools. We used the learning from the sessions with year 8s to develop messaging. We used the second round of focus groups to test these messages and design propositions for the campaign materials in the form of posters.

The sessions were facilitated by CCG comms and engagement leads from the boroughs. The SWL programme comms and engagement leads commissioned a company which specialises in marketing for young people, Giraffe, to design the sessions, analyse the feedback and produce the attached report on our learnings. The report has been shared with our schools and those who shared their views. It was deigned to support children and young people to understand the findings.

Download (PDF, 12.16MB)

Feedback captured in a child friendly slide pack and presented back at schools and steering group to explain how their feedback influenced language and look of campaign and online services.

Download (PPTX, 8.57MB)