Ahead of attending Oxfordshire Mind and Oxfordshire Youth’s Youth in Mind conference next month, Tom Currie, Outcomes Star’s local Implementation Lead, reminisces and reflects on his adolescence and how it compares to that of today.
If you were an adolescent in 2020, how would you be coping? I, for one, am not so sure I would be doing as well as I did in my decade of pubescent angst – the ‘80s. From my 15 years working in youth sector organisations, it is clear to me that helping young people develop the skills and resources to maintain good mental health is of the utmost importance. In this blogpost I look at a couple of the challenges we face and present a solution that could help.
There is an ever-increasing number of challenges to good mental health invading the space young people inhabit. These include: the multiple platforms on which they relate to others, the growing complexity of gender, sexuality and identity, a rising awareness of the challenges facing the world in their lifetime and the depleting natural resources with which to face those challenges. And all of this sits within a backdrop of rapidly changing political and social landscapes. The children and young people I talk to are more informed about the environmental and political crises they face, yet, as a society, we have less to offer them by way of a vision for the future to sustain their spirits in overcoming these challenges. So, I am thrilled that in February I am spending a day with experts talking about how best to support young people to develop emotional intelligence and strengthen their mental health at the Youth in Mind conference. It looks like a fantastic line up of presenters and delegates.
Third sector organisations play an important role in supporting young people’s mental well-being. Continuing cuts to council budgets and the already decimated youth service provision across the country means that many local authority Youth Services are simply no longer able to meet that growing need. Young people need healthy relationships with caring and interested adults to help them navigate the challenges of adolescence and enter adulthood successfully. So, relationships that see and support the whole person, their strengths and capabilities as well as the challenges they face, are key ingredients for services helping to maintain good mental health. First challenge: how do we support holistic, client-centred, relational keywork?
On top of this, in order to gain funding and win commissions, charities and other organisations providing these services need to be able to prove the value of their work to funders or commissioners. Success often looks like the aversion of a mental health episode or other tragic event, like self-harm or suicide. Which brings us to the next challenge: how do you measure and demonstrate what did not happen as a result of your intervention?
One useful tool to consider for addressing these challenges is the My Mind Star. Published in September 2019 after a two-year process of design, development, piloting and refining, this new Outcomes Star is the result of a creative partnership between Triangle, Action for Children and Headstart. My Mind Star is designed to be used with young people who are experiencing poor mental health, including low mood, stress, anxiety, anger, sleeplessness or self-harming, or who have a diagnosed mental health condition. It is intended for use in early intervention services that aim to prevent the onset or development of a mental health condition wherever possible, and to fill the gap in mental health services before one is diagnosed. This Star may also be used to support young people in managing a mental health condition.
My Mind Star meets the first challenge of supporting holistic, client-centred, relational work because it is essentially a key working tool designed to be used as part of a supportive relationship. The seven holistic outcome areas of My Mind Star help young people explore how the different parts of their life affect or are affected by their mental health:
- Feelings and emotions
- Healthy lifestyle
- Where you live
- Friends and relationships
- School, training and work
- How you use your time
The second challenge, of measuring what your service prevented from happening, is addressed by My Mind Star’s scale. All the Outcomes Stars use the five-stage Journey of Change to measure changes in attitude and engagement. This makes them effective at evidencing hidden, intrinsic outcomes, like shifts in attitudes, beliefs and thinking patterns, as well as measuring the more visible, extrinsic outcomes like improved engagement at school or college. All the Outcomes Stars are available on Star Online, our web-based platform for recording and analysing the data provided by the Stars, so it makes reporting and representing your impact a much quicker and easier task.
I’m attending the conference with my colleague Marie Buss, so if you are interested in finding out more about My Mind Star or any of our other Outcomes Stars for young people then come and find us in the exhibition area. We may not be able to remove all the triggers and challenges that young people are facing around maintaining strong mental health, but we can give them the tools to take an active role in overcoming those challenges together.
The Youth in Mind conference takes place on 12th February at the King’s Centre in Oxford. Tickets are available until 3rd February. If you’re attending the event and would like to arrange a meeting with Tom or Marie on the day, or if you have any questions about our new Stars, or would like any information on the new Star Online, or anything else, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0) 207 272 8765.