A new approach to improving youth mental public health – the TRIUMPH Network

Issued: Sat, 01 Dec 2018 14:12:00 GMT

Published on: 1st December 2018

By Professor Lisa McDaid, Programme Leader of the Social Relationships and Health Improvement programme, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow.

One in eight children and young people experience mental health problems and the majority of these have onset before their mid-twenties. Yet, 70% of young people have not had the appropriate intervention that they need. Young people face considerable pressures as they grow up; pressures that are driven by the ever-changing environment in which we live. Changes in technology, communications and the media that we are exposed to have coincided with an increasing prevalence of mental health problems, especially among girls – just last week, a new study reported that nearly one in four young women aged 17-19 have experienced mental illness. Yet we have few effective solutions for the improvement of youth mental public health.

Treatment and care, when accessible, treats the problems, not the causes.

The traditional mental health sciences most often focus on understanding and solving mental health problems at the individual level, but many of the drivers of poor mental health sit at the broader social, environmental and cultural level and are affected by the relationships we have, and the settings and communities that we live within.

The TRIUMPH Network

In setting up the TRIUMPH (Transdisciplinary Research for the Improvement of Youth Mental Public Health) Network we believe that there is a different, solution-focused approach. One that seeks to understand young people’s strengths, assets and resiliences, which we can draw on to improve health. Moving from problems to solutions is not easy, but if we do not act, we are in danger of failing a generation of young people. 

To improve youth mental public health, the TRIUMPH Network will bring together young people with academics from across the clinical, social, arts and design sciences in sustained collaboration with practitioners, policy-makers and third sector partners.  To make a difference, and deliver a transformative agenda of engagement and research, we will incorporate two core approaches: co-production and co-design with young people.

Co-production

Young people will be at the centre of the TRIUMPH Network. We as researchers will work with young people to facilitate their ideas, using our knowledge, training, methods and techniques to turn these into reality, into new solutions to improve youth mental public health. We will work together to find new ways to improve mental health and wellbeing, especially among marginalised groups, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and care experienced young people, where need is greatest. We will target our efforts at the peer groups, social networks and education settings with strongest influence on young people’s health and behaviours.

Co-design

To understand and identify innovative solutions, while recognising the complexity of youth mental public health, we will take a participatory design approach. This means using different visual methods and creative outputs to support engagement with young people, bringing innovation to our planned activities, making the decision-making process more accessible, and supporting productive dialogue across the Network and beyond. This will include workshops to understand the mental health problems facing young peopleidentify possible solutions and take forward project ideas, and information exchange and community engagement events to share learning and increase the involvement of those most affected by youth mental ill-health.

Youth mental public health is a big problem and identifying solutions at the population-level needs a bold approach. TRIUMPH’s long-term vision is to improve youth mental public health in the UK; to reduce the proportion of young people that do not receive appropriate intervention. By finding the solutions to prevent and reduce mental health problems, we can benefit young people, as well as their families, friends and the communities they live in.

TRIUMPH will achieve this by focusing where need is greatest, co-producing solutions, and building transdisciplinary research capacity to take forward interventions that are effective, acceptable, and sustainable in the real world.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author.

The TRIUMPH Network is funded by UKRI. The MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit is funded by the Medical Research Council and the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Medical Research Council or the Scottish Government.