Pixel Frame: Friday 1st April / by Richard Bentley

I attended the MindEd Conference on Friday 18th March and was asked to speak on the following question:

‘What does a successful mental health literacy programme look like and how is it best generated and delivered?’  

My speech reflected on our progress at Pixel Learning and what we have discovered since we first started developing ThinkWell in September 2014.  The following is the first in a two-part summary of the key messages in my MindEd speech.  I hope that our experience may be useful to anyone working with young people around mental health and emotional wellbeing.  If you would like to discuss anything in more detail or would like our data for research, do send an email- hannah@pixellearning.org or tweet @Hannahknight89  

What does successful mental health literacy mean?

At Pixel Learning, we believe that it is empowering young people to manage their own mental health.

What does this mean in practice?

- Building on existing support- signposting to excellent help that already exists rather than duplicating. There are 1272 organisations that support people with their mental health in the UK.

- Using the power of stories- as humans, we respond and emotionally relate to stories in a way that we don’t to statistics and policies.  This is evidenced by the global response to  the #FindMike campaign and how Jonny Benjamin’s story started conversations about mental health all around the world. This contribution was recognised when Jonny and Neil Laybourn (aka Mike) were awarded the Mind Making a Difference Award last year.

- Inclusive of all ages and abilities- young people are all individuals and respond to different approaches. We think mental health literacy needs to be responsive to the age, ability and setting of young people - what works for KS3 students in a school is very different to what works for 18 year olds in a youth group.  We need to be responsive to all of young people’s needs;  mindful of learning needs but also of emotional and cultural factors and how these may impact engagement with mental health.

- Experts from different sectors- we need many different perspectives for what is a challenging issue. Mental health literacy is not just a health or education issue.  It is an issue that needs minds from many disciplines which is why at Pixel Learning we have film makers, youth workers, therapists, actors and teachers on the team.

However, the key thing that we believe has to underpin  and be the foundation of successful mental health literacy is the needs of the user.  By this, we mean the requirements of the people using the service; in our case young people, teachers, youth workers, schools, youth organisations and pupil referral units. 

The needs of the user have to be prioritised above all else. It is my belief that it is the users, in our case the children and young people of the UK, over 15 million of whom make up over 20% of the population, who will be the agents of social change. The role of early intervention should be empowering and enabling young people to become ‘literate’ in mental health and they will affect cultural change for the next generation.