Improving young people’s mental health
Public health officials at Suffolk County Council commissioned Sustain to work alongside a wide range of partners from across the county to help transform the way mental health support is delivered in schools.
The initiative, called Targeted Mental Health in Schools (TaMHS), would focus on developing a Suffolk-wide integrated commissioning and delivery toolkit based on good practice and successful models currently in use elsewhere in the country.
The project’s long-term aim was to help improve the emotional wellbeing of children aged between eight and 12 whilst also meeting new policy guidance.
Significant improvements had been made during a previous project in 2008, which helped provide flexible, responsive and effective early intervention mental health services for children. However, funding was withdrawn in 2010, which meant the resources were no longer available for the new pathways to continue. As a result, the project team were tasked with finding new ways of building on the previous project’s success.
The initiative would also require various different partners and services to work together, breaking down traditional organisational boundaries in order to create an integrated tool which could be used by all professionals, and not just the NHS.
A multi-agency steering group was established in January 2015, made up of Sustain representatives and health practitioners from a wide range of disciplines including school nursing and mental health, clinical commissioning group members. The voluntary sector and service users were also represented.
The group identified five key themes which for inclusion in the toolkit, and set up workshops to look in detail at different aspects of the project, such as existing referral pathways, improving communications and upskilling staff. Over the next three months, best practice pathways were discussed and debated, with all partners keen share their knowledge and experience to find simple solutions to improve child mental health which could be shared across the county.
Following careful consideration and consultation with members of the Parents and Carers Together group, the team recommended that a simple, web-based resource should be developed to support the emotional health and wellbeing of Suffolk children. It should include information about a variety of conditions and the support services which are available, as well as signposting people to further resources. Designed to inform, educate and give suggested solutions, the easy to use resource would be accessible to parents, professionals and anyone else who wants or needs to use it.
The group also made a series of additional observations for commissioners to consider, which include:
Outcomes and achievements
- Reviewing the learning opportunities available for staff to make sure approaches and content are consistent across the county
- Developing education programmes for parents and carers to help build their resilience
- Improving communication and joint working between different agencies and services
- Actively involve schools in the development of the web resource
- Concentrating on promotion of positive emotional health in schools rather than the prevention or mental ill health
The TaMHS project has been a shining example of individuals working across organisational and service boundaries to share information, documentation and ideas and find solutions to any issues which emerge. The project has played a key role in breaking down professional barriers and encouraged services to work collaboratively rather than in isolation to find a simple, effective and easy to use solution which will have a big impact on improving child mental health.
It is hoped this momentum will be carried into phase two of the project, which begins later in 2015 and will concentrate on further developing the Suffolk-wide web resource before running a pilot to fully test it and identify any further improvements which could be made.