Starting Well: Children's Mental Health

Starting Well: Early detection and intervention of mental health problems in children and young people.

Research Leads:

Professor David Fowler, Theme Lead

Becca Randell, Implementation Lead

Starting Well: Children's Mental Health Motif
Starting Well: Children's Mental Health Showcase

Starting Well: Children and Young People's Mental Health

The Children and Young People's Mental Health theme works to enable and enrich approaches to research, evaluation and intervention development and implementation.

We will focus on early detection and intervention of mental health problems in children and young people.

The Starting Well: Children and Young People's Mental Health Subthemes include:

  • Severe mental health problems in adolescence and neurodiversity
  • School based mental health
  • Parenting
  • Seldom heard groups of young people and communities 

For information, resources and updates on current research projects please refer to the below project themes.

Who is who/Our team

Professor David Fowler, Starting Well: Children and Young People's Mental Health Theme Lead
Becca Randell, Starting Well: Children and Young People's Mental Health Implementation Manager
Devyn Glass, Starting Well: Children and Young People's Mental Health Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Claire Vella, Starting Well: Children and Young People's Mental Health Post-Doctoral Research Fellow 

To sign up to receive updates on research, events and funding within the Starting well theme click here.

Current Projects

Youth Mental Health

Sussex Youth Summit 2023

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The 2023 Sussex Youth Summit brought together around 80 representatives from education, voluntary and community sector, local authorities, NHS, as well as young people with lived experience – to further progress plans for improving community-based emotional wellbeing and mental health services and support for people aged 16 to 25.

We are working together across Sussex to design a “whole system approach” to the mental health and emotional wellbeing pathway of care for young people (aged 16-25) – supporting their transition into adulthood and adult services or support.

The work focuses on improving transitions, early intervention and prevention, with evidence-based initiatives.

To find out more click here.  

Click here to listen to some reflections from young people who attended on the day. 

Youth Summit 2022

YS 1

Around 90 people from in and around Sussex came together for the Sussex Youth Mental Health Summit event held on 16 June to pledge their support and help develop ambitions around community-based emotional wellbeing and mental health youth interventions for 16-25 year olds.

Representatives for the education, voluntary, community sector, children's social care, local authorities, Integrated Care System, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, as well as young people themselves, attended at the Sussex Youth Mental Health 'call to action' Summit, in Brighton, to find ways to change and help reform mental health and wellbeing services for young people.

The event, co-ordinated by Kent, Surrey and Sussex Academic Health Science Network (KSS AHSN)NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS) in partnership with Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (SPFT) and was co-facilitated by young people from Varndean School in Brighton.

Click here to read more.

Visual Summary with logos

At the Sussex Youth Mental Health Summit event discussions among young people and key stakeholders were captured creatively in a three meter long picture. From left to right, the picture illustrates what we are doing at the moment, what gets in the way and what will help, followed by pledges that were made on the day by stakeholders. 

The picture illustrates:

  • What we are doing at the moment including: coproduction, current research such as the Community-based Mental Health Intervention for Young People within Deprived Social Communities (CATALYST) project; support for vulnerable groups; one to one sessions and digital support.
  • Examples of what gets in the way: access capacity, engagement, funding, miscommunication and anxiety.
  • And, things that will help include trust, for example: communication, breaking down stigma, coproduction and partnerships. 

A number of commitments and pledges were made by all the stakeholders and young people, some examples include: investigate schools joining together to share best practice, propose the introduction of youth work roles, make parents aware of our services and enable young people to use them.

To view the image in a larger format please click here.

 

CATALYST

catalyst

Co-designing and testing an Asset-based TAsk-sharing modeL for Youth mental health Services in deprived communiTies.

CATALYST is a National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) funded research project aimed at improving Youth Mental Health (YMH) services alongside young people in vulnerable communities.

This project is seeking to co-design community-based mental health strategies and interventions WITH and FOR young people, their parents/carers, healthcare workers, and local communities. 

Click here to view summary slides. 

Click here for more information on this project. 

 

Youth Transitions Audit

The Sussex Transitions Audit was led by Sussex Partnership Foundation NHS Trust and supported by ARC KSS Starting Well theme.   The aim of the research was to audit transitions from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to Adult Mental Health Services (AMHS) during 2018-2019.    

Click here to view the report. 

Between 2018-2019, 1,001 young people open to CAMHS would turn 18. Of that number, 17% (172) transferred to Adult Mental Health Services (AMHS). Reviewing the data again in 2021, 38% (380) had received intervention from adult services...

Click here to read the Transitions Audit Report Summary. 

 

Together

TOGETHER: Trialling an optimised social groups intervention in services to enhance social connectedness and mental Health in young people: A feasibility study

The TOGETHER feasibility study aims to investigate the feasibility and acceptability of a social connectedness intervention for young people aged 16-25 experiencing mental health difficulties. This study is funded by the ARC KSS, and is led by a research team from the University of Sussex, Brighton and Sussex Medical School and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. The study involves two parallel projects:

  1. ‘Groups4Health’ Feasibility Randomised Controlled Trial

‘Groups 4 Health’ is a 5 session theory-driven social groups intervention created by a team in Australia. Past research has found that the intervention has helped people with their feelings of loneliness, their connections with other people, their symptoms of depression and their well-being. This intervention now needs to be investigated with young people in the UK.

This project is being trialled in Sussex community and youth mental health services and will help us to learn:

  • What the experience of the intervention is like and how we can improve the intervention for both young people who are currently experiencing mental health difficulties and for members of staff delivering the intervention
  • Do our plans for this research study work so we can run a larger study in the future? (For example, do we get enough people who want to take part? Do people stay involved for the whole study?)

For more information, click here. 

  1. Practitioner Survey

This study also seeks to understand what a wide and diverse range of professionals who support young people think about the idea of social connectedness interventions to support young people with mental health problems. Through a brief anonymous survey this study aims to investigate:

  • Whether/how practitioners do or intend to support young people to increase their social connectedness
  • What helps or makes it more difficult for practitioners to support young people with their social connectedness
  • Who should support young people with their social connectedness
  • How can researchers best evaluate the effects of social connectedness interventions

For more information or to take part, click here.

 

Surrey Children and Young People Roadshow

Case Study: The Art of the possible, How innovation can improve health and care for children and young people in Surrey

School Mental Health

Whole School and College Approach

Whole School Approach Best Practice Review: Evaluation

 

WSA MHST

A review and evaluation of the work undertaken by Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) supporting schools to deliver whole school approaches to emotional wellbeing and mental health across east and south east England has generated interest nationally and locally.  The research, launched today (7 December), was undertaken by academics from the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex, in participation with the Charlie Waller Trust.

For more information please click here.

The Best Practice Review of Whole School Approach (WSA) within MHSTs in the South-East and East of England: Executive summary

Best Practice Review of Whole School Approach within MHSTs in the South-East and East of England: Evaluation Report

Best Practice Review of the Whole School Approach (WSA) within MHSTs in the South-East and East of England: Summary of Evaluation.

Whole School Approach Pupil session plan - KS2

Whole School Approach Pupil session plan - KS3

Best Practice Review of Whole School Approach in MHSTs – Literature Review Final Report

Best Practice Review of Whole School Approach in MHSTs – Literature Search Summaries 

Case Sudy: A 'Whole School Approach' to mental health

For more information on this report click here.

To view the recording of the Best Practice Review of Whole School Approach to Mental Health Support Teams Webinar click here.

How can you best support the implementation of the WSA to Mental Health within your role?  Click here to view the responses.

 

Whole School Approach Best Practice Review: Next Steps & Measuring Impact

 

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More than 100 stakeholders from mental health support teams (MHSTs), from across the east and south east of England, came together in September to discuss their approaches to delivering the whole school approach within mental health support in schools and how this impact can be measured.

Led by Kent Surrey and Sussex Academic Health Science Network and NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS), in collaboration with the Department for Education (DfE), the Whole School Approach Best Practice Review of Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) - Next Steps & Measuring Success event was an opportunity for mental health support staff to discuss their team’s approach.

To read the full news story please click here

To download an event summary and presentations please click here

To view break out rooms discussion notes please click here.

To view a video of the event please click here.  

wsca 

In partnership with University of Sussex, Charlie Waller Trust, West Sussex County Council and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, ARC KSS has worked with staff and pupils and in consultation with Mental Health Support Teams Leads, Department for Education and NHS England to develop a new self-assessment measurement tool for schools and colleges to assess and track the Whole School and College Approach (WSCA) outcomes.    

The WSCA Self-assessment Measurement Toolkit Full Report

The WSCA Self-assessment Measurement Toolkit Executive Summary

The WSCA Self-assessment Measurement Toolkit Lay Summary

Neurodiversity

Children and Young People's Mental Health, Neurodevelopment, Neurodiversity and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Community of Research Practice

neuro porject

In September, the Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS) held an in-person, community of practice event on Children and Young People's Mental Health, Neurodevelopment, Neurodiversity and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), at the University of Sussex.

Chaired by Becca Randell, Implementation Manager for the Starting Well, ARC KSS, and Dr Ian Male, Director of Research at Sussex Community Foundation Trust, the event brought together more than 40 delegates from different academic institutions, voluntary and community organisations, as well as NHS England, to learn about research projects in the region, share best practice and identify research gaps.

To read more about the event click here.

For a summary of the event and resources click here.

To read our public contributor's thoughts on the event click here

Parenting and Mental Health

Together

together
The Together Project is a set of co-produced resources to support good maternity care for people with learning disabilities funded by Health Education England (HEE) and the Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS).

A research team at the University of Surrey conducted interviews with key stakeholders (health and social care professionals, parents with learning disabilities and their informal supporters/carers) to understand views of best practice and to inform resource development. Working together, they co-produced two resources:

  1. The Together Toolkit for professionals working in maternity services, to support the delivery of good care for people with learning disabilities during their pregnancy.
  2. A Maternity Passport to be held by people with learning disabilities who are pregnant and to include the relevant information needed by the professionals who support them.

For further information on the Together Project please click here.  

Case study: Together Project Parents with Learning Disabilities

Seldom Heard Groups (Care Leavers, Migrant Young People)

Care Leavers

Beyond Lockdown – Impact Of COVID-19 On Care Leavers

care eavers

Many young people can leave the care system feeling unprepared, financially insecure, in poor mental health and without the support networks most of us take for granted. This can mean care leavers are particularly vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 and lockdown.

To further our understanding about the impact of COVID-19 on care leavers’ wellbeing, NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS) commissioned research into the impact of COVID-19 on the daily life and wellbeing of care leavers, focusing on what support they need as lockdown ends.  The Beyond Lockdown research team, which included a partnership between University of Sussex and Creative Research Collective, undertook the research from June until December 2020.   

Click here for resources and more information.

Case Study: Post-lockdown support matters for care leavers and their mental wellbeing

The findings of the Beyond Lockdown research project were presented at a community of practice. Stakeholders who work with care leavers made a series of pledges – practical ways in which they would use the research findings to support care leavers. Members of the Starting Well ARC KSS team followed up two years later to receive updates about the pledges, and to understand what barriers were experienced when trying to implement these pledges.

Summary Impact Report: Post lockdown support matters for care leavers and their mental

Impact Report: Post lockdown support matters for care leavers and their mental wellbeing.

 

 Migrant and Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children

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Dr. Leanne Bogen-Johnston, Post Doc within ARC KSS Starting Well Theme and Sarah Newman, a student from the University of Sussex, have undertaken a mapping exercise of emotional wellbeing and mental health services for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) across Kent, Surrey and Sussex. The report provides a high-level overview of key demographics and highlights the support services available in Surrey, Kent and Medway, Brighton and Hove, West and East Sussex. This report should be used to help support and inform implementation and future research.

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children Mapping Report 2022

Migrant Mental Health Community of Experience Summary

 

DisCOVery - Exploring the mental health impact of Covid-19 for young people in high risk and hard to reach groups

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Funded by ARC Kent, Surrey and Sussex, led by University of Sussex. the DisCOVery study explored the social and psychological effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable young people from deprived rural and coastal communities.

Between January 2021 to January 2022, data was collected via one-to-one interviews and an online survey. The aim of the research was to provide an evidence base upon which to develop and evaluate psychosocial interventions for young people and wider communities within Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Norfolk.

Click here to view the disCOVery presentation.

 

Exploring whether trauma-informed Occupational Therapy interventions could assist care leavers in meeting their personal outcomes, by improving functional skills and emotional-regulation

As part of an embedded researcher award in Kent Local Authority funded by the Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS), a Lead Researcher worked with Christchurch University in Canterbury and four of their Occupational Therapy (OT) apprentices, to build up  initial evidence around the benefits of an OT supporting 18 - 21-year-old care leavers. In an area with limited research, OTs have been successful in recent years supporting neurodiverse young people within their functional and emotional abilities.  It was considered useful to see if these successes could be mirrored in young people who sadly have experienced childhood trauma of one kind or another. The results of the pilot study were compelling with outcomes met, advancements in independent living skills within standardised measures utilised, and excellent qualitative respondent feedback from the 10 participants that within a period of 8-10 weeks of support, their functional and emotional skills improved; and their supporters agreed.

Read the case study here

Digital Mental Health

Zoom or Room - Online v in-person therapy?

guidelines

A team of researchers at the University of Sussex have launched a set of guidelines to help practitioners provide better support to parents and children accessing mental health services online.

The Guidelines for Using Online Therapeutic Intervention follows a research project, “Zoom or Room” - Online v in-person therapy? Funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration, Kent Surrey and Sussex and supported by Kent Surrey and Sussex Academic Health Science Network that took place last year and looked at the effectiveness and guidance for in-person versus online intervention session.

For more information please click here

Download a copy of the guidelines here.

Video: Online intervention guidance for employers
Leaflet: Online intervention guidance for employers

Video: Online intervention guidance for practitioners
Leaflet: Online intervention guidance for practitioners

Video: Online intervention guidance for clients
Leaflet: Online intervention guidance for clients

Video: Online intervention guidance for groups
Leaflet: Online intervention guidance for groups

Further information University of Sussex's Interactions: Zoom or Room project

Pan-Sussex Children and Young People’s Mental Health Digital Review

pan sussex

The report, the Pan-Sussex Children and Young People’s Mental Health Digital Review, is based on the experiences and perceptions of young people who shared their views in a survey and took part in a number of events over the summer. The survey aimed to identify gaps in digital provision of Children and Young Peoples’ (CYP) mental health and emotional wellbeing services (age up to 25) in Sussex and to find out from young people how services could be improved.

Key findings include:

• 85% said online mental health support was useful
• 66% of young people accessed online support for the first time during the pandemic
• 60% of young people said they would like a mixture of face-to-face and online support in the future
• 27% were referred to online services by their GP
• 19% had existing therapy moved online due to the pandemic.

The report also calls for a Sussex-wide CYP Mental Health Digital Strategy which should include principles for developing digital solutions, implementing digital working and digital ambitions co-produced by young people. It recommends that the strategy should be embedded within the emerging Sussex-wide CYP Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Strategy and aligned to Sussex Health and Care Partnership’s digital ambition.

To find out  more click here

To read the full report, download it here.

Click here to view a summary of the research.

Building on the recommendations made in the 2021 CYP Digital Mental Health Review, e-wellbeing (YMCA DownsLink Group), Kent Surrey and Sussex Academic Health Service Network and Unity Insights, supported by Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS) have developed a new Digital Mental Health Communications Training Programme. The course provides an overview of digital communications channels, how to engage children and young people via digital channels, and diversity and inclusion best practice associated with digital communications.

Funded by Health Education England, this training was attended by the Sussex children and young people’s workforce and delivered by e-wellbeing staff and Youth Ambassadors; young people aged 16-25 who are passionate about youth mental health and wellbeing.

Download the following resources:

Youth Research Partnerships

Youth Research Partnerships 

Four Youth Research Partnerships were launched in September 2023 with organisations from Kent, Surrey and Sussex outlining their plans to improve youth research and engagement across the region. Funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research, the Applied Research Collaboration in Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS), the partnership of youth research networks has been formed to build research capacity, identify children and young people’s (CYP) mental health research priorities, and to offer training to researchers and young people on engagement in research and research skills. The four youth research partnerships are being led by Kent County Council, In Our Own Words (Surrey County Council), Sussex YMCA Downslink Group and Make (Good) Trouble.  The research networks have been funded to further support the ARC KSS Starting Well (CYP Mental Health) priorities to focus on research to improve outcomes for children and young people’s mental health. 

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Surrey

Surrey Youth Research Partnership Project – In Our Own Words, youth-led research programme will:

  • train young people to carry out their own social research
  • explore and understand other young people’s experience of mental health services in Surrey
  • enable neurodiverse young people and young carers to share their own voices
  • connect and include perspectives of the wider community through networking events
  • present findings and suggestions to key decision-making boards to bring about change.

For more information contact – lucy.pearson@surreycc.gov.uk

Kent

Kent

Research Network – to provide opportunities for researchers to visit youth organisations and opportunities for youth organisations to engage with research.

  • Young Researchers - Training young people to lead their own research projects
  • Participant registers - Ad hoc surveys, interview opportunities etc.
  • Sharing and celebrating youth research in Kent - Newsletters and updates

Click here for Young Research video.

Make good trouble


Make (Good) Trouble

Sussex Youth Research Partnership Project – Make (Good) Trouble CIC will:

  • Provide best practice interview training for up to 20 young people, in the form of interactive workshops
  • Work alongside research professionals to ensure the training is adapted to everyone's needs
  • Open up professional production opportunities (Upskilling) to young people interested in media production
  • Contribute to evaluation processes for the YMCA Youth Research project

Children and young people's mental health (smaller scale studies)

Ten individuals, employed by a health and care provider organisations in the region, have also received an IDA Springboard Award, to help build their research skills in children and young people's mental health. They include:

  • Using Creative Film for Patient Engagement - Chloé Smith, Art Psychotherapist, Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, to design and deliver a patient engagement group by encouraging and facilitating meaningful interactions - using film to begin the process of creative expression.

  • Research to identify gaps in mental health assessments - Marianne Burrowes, Lead Psychologist Wellbeing PractitionerSussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, to collect data that will allow their primary care mental health service, treating depression and anxiety disorders, to identify any gaps and enhance mental health assessments, helping parents to be better understood and improve information gathering.

  • Barefoot exercise and mindfulness intervention - Gemma Le Roy, Student and Health and Wellbeing Mindset CoachUniversity of Chichesterand The Wellness Tribe, to support and conduct applied research on: children and young people's mental health, the benefits of barefoot group exercise combined with mindfulness in nature, a health intervention.

  • Research into ethnicity minority CYP in mental health settings - Amanda Ferrell, Research Assistant (School of Psychology, University of Sussex) - Project: A scoping review of the experiences of racial/ ethnic minority young people (aged 16 to 25) in mental care settings in the UK, including experiences of the treatment they receive and find any gaps in their care.

  • Research into Student Peer Support Groups - Anjali Das, Graduate Associate Wellbeing Team (University of Sussex) - Project: How we could optimise peer support programmes to better support students that come from underrepresented groups.

  • Research to explore CYP and stakeholder views of ADHD - Gillian Middleditch, Advanced Clinical Practitioner (Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust) - Project: To explore children, young people, families and wider stakeholders' views of undertaking Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) medication clinics in the school setting.

  • Research into social prescribing and perinatal mental health - Lizzie Lowrey-Crouch, Head of Partnerships and Innovation (Involve Kent) - Project: Developing social prescribing as an intervention to support perinatal mental health.

  • Research evaluating feasibility of ARFID Pathway - Maxine Byrne, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist (Sussex Partnership NHS - Foundation Trust) - Project: Evaluating the feasibility and acceptability of a novel pilot of the Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) pathway, within an existing eating disorders service.

  • Research evaluating perceptions of brain health in rugby players - Nicholas De Cruz, Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology (University of Surrey) - Project: The perceptions of brain health in young rugby academy players (16-18 years).

  • Research looking at gender impact on young peoples’ mental health - Ruby Porter, Counsellor, (Faversham Counselling Services) - Project: Does gender impact on 14-16 -year-olds' responses to mental health discussion? A study to identify the best context to encourage young people's consultation practices.
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