Mental health informed youth work: Critical Reflections


In a guest blog on the Changing Minds, Changing Lives web site Susan Blishen takes stock of  what the Right Here initiative learned and achieved, and what could come next.

Right Here was a five-year young people’s mental health and wellbeing programme developed and managed by Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Mental Health Foundation. It funded four local partnerships – in Brighton and Hove, Fermanagh, the London Borough of Newham, and Sheffield – to work with young people aged 16 – 25 to co-produce and deliver mental health and wellbeing activities, projects, research and opportunities. The programme ran from 2009 – 2014.

Her sober and thoughtful reflections are a welcome change from the self-congratulatory evaluations, which have become the norm in the competitive funding culture created by the marketisation of the youth sector.

She begins:

Summing up over half a decade of activity in four sites across the UK is difficult. Working out what this activity actually means for those who might follow in its footsteps doubly so. We’ve concluded that where Right Here worked well it was a kind of mental health informed youth work; taking everything that’s brilliant about youth work and youth workers and simply focusing it more closely on the mental health and wellbeing of young people.

When we set up Right Here, way back in 2009, we imagined we were going to change the world, or at least the policy and practice world around young people’s mental health and wellbeing. We talked about creating a new service model around young people’s mental health that would reduce the numbers of young people developing treatable mental health problems.

Five years on and we are a lot wiser. Our original ambitions were tempered by austerity and the radical changes to the health and social care structure that came with the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

Together with Mark Brown Susan has produced a series of articles, which focus upon the practical lessons learnt by Right Here about ways to manage, develop, evaluate and carry out youth work-led mental health projects for young people. Through extensive use of young people’s own thoughts these bring Right Here to life.

Susan comments, I hope some of you will get the opportunity to test these hypotheses in practice, to learn as you go, and to make that learning available to others, just as we’ve done. From my six years’ experience in the field, I’d say this is just what the sector needs.

Thanks to Tom Wylie for the initial nudge to this work and its evaluation.

Amongst the titles are:




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