Category Archives: Young people

BMA Patient Information Awards for Mind and Miscarriage Association work

I’m really chuffed to be able to share that both Mind and the Miscarriage Association received awards at the British Medical Association Patient Information Awards 2017 for information and that I researched and wrote.

The awards aim to ‘encourage excellence in the production and dissemination of accessible, well-designed and clinically balanced patient information’. They look for accessible information that is evidence-based and well researched. It’s also important that people with lived experience are involved in the production of the information. You can see all the award winners here.

Information for young people (for the Miscarriage Association)

The youth resources I researched and wrote for the Miscarriage Association were highly commended. They were also given a runner-up award in the special category for Young Adults. I was particularly pleased with this award as I managed the whole project, conducted the on and offline research with young people, developed recommendations and wrote the resources themselves. You can read more about the consultation process here.

It was reviewed by Dr. Hannah R Bridges of HB Health Comms Ltd who wrote:

Wow! This is a wonderful example how good consultation and understanding your audience can lead to great quality information! The Miscarriage Association has identified a need for materials to support young people, who have different experiences and support needs. The consultation, planning, and promotional plans show excellence in producing health information. This shows through in the end products – high quality and extremely well-tailored to the audience. The insight and thought that has gone into this is commendable. Take for example the ‘what happens when you call our helpline’ page – simple, highly visual, concise and reassuring information to encourage young people in need of support to dare to pick up the phone – the overall impression is one of kindness. Just wonderful.

Money and mental health (for Mind)

The information product Money and mental health I wrote for Mind was highly commended. It also received a runner-up award in the special category for Self-Care resources. This resource was one of the first to be written in a new ‘hub’ format. It involved research with Mind’s online community and social media audiences, working with bloggers with lived experience and researching common problems and support options.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the awards with colleagues from either charity  – at 39 weeks pregnant it wasn’t worth the risk of going into labour on the train from Bristol, at the awards or in my brother’s shared house. But it’s a lovely way to leave work for a while.

New youth resources for the Miscarriage Association

“People said it was lucky really. I don’t know how to deal with that”

This quote was one of many we gathered from young women we spoke to during the youth young girl with bookproject consultation process I ran for the Miscarriage Association. It highlighted the need for additional support resources that  reflected the experiences of younger people.

Young women told us about dealing with miscarriage after an unplanned pregnancy, finding themselves isolated and unable to speak to parents or partners, turning only to friends for support and experiencing difficult reactions from hospital and nursing staff.

And now I’m excited to help the Miscarriage Association launch the resources we developed as a result.

A soft launch at Primary Care 2015

It sMA stall at Primary Careeemed appropriate to soft launch the resources at the Primary Care conference in Birmingham. It was here, last year, that community midwives and school nurses asked for more specialist resources for younger women. The Miscarriage Association’s National Director Ruth, some wonderful volunteers and I spent two days spreading the word about the Miscarriage Association and sharing our new resources.

They were universally well received and we sent boxes worth of leaflets out into the world as well as showing our new films (created for us by Rob Mitchell of MadCutta films) and chatting to anyone who would listen about what we were up to. It was wonderful to see how many people benefitted from the work the Miscarriage Association does – professionally but also in some cases personally.
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Developing youth resources with the Miscarriage Association and Brook

Stage 1 – Online and face to face workshops with young people

“I’ve honestly literally never spoken about my experience with anyone since I left sixth form, this is the first (and possibly last) time – but I’m happy that I’m using it to hopefully help others”

I was recently approached by the Miscarriage Association to help them research and develop youth friendly online (and possibly offline) resources. Young peoples’ voices are missing and their needs are not being fully met by the Miscarriage Association’s current offering. But before we decided what to develop, we needed to do some research to find out a bit more about what young people were experiencing, what they want and – most importantly – why they want it.

Knowing WHY helps us get a deeper understanding of the need. Knowing that a young person wants online videos is one thing, knowing that they want them because they feel alone in their experience and want something to help reduce this isolation is much richer information. If we know this, we are in a position to find the very best way to meet this need.

Our hope was that the young people we worked with in this research phase would become engaged enough to stay involved and work with us through the development phases too.

Working in partnership

Our first step was to approach Brook. We’d identified that they had little online information about miscarriage and knew that for many young people Brook would be the first port of call when they needed help with pregnancy loss. Brook are redeveloping their website and resources so it made sense to work in partnership to share learning and ensure that young people were supported at every stage of their support-seeking journey. Continue reading

‘Crazy’ by Amy Reed – a review of a YA book about bipolar disorder.

A review of Crazy by Amy Reed – published by Simon and Schuster

Crazy by Amy Reed

It’s hard to truly imagine what depression or bipolar disorder is actually like. The language of mental health is woefully inadequate. The word ‘depression’ has become part of the spectrum of everyday language used to describe feeling sad. We’ve all said or heard it. “My team lost, I’m so depressed” or “God, this TV programme is so depressing”.  As a result it becomes harder to find the words to adequately distinguish between natural sadness and the entirely different experience of a chemically depressed mind.

Someone without diagnosed depression might fail to understand why those who have can’t ‘just cheer up’. Those who are ill might judge themselves a failure for feeling unnaturally sad or incapable. A greater linguistic distinction would be helpful.

But even if the words depression, mania, OCD or psychosis were only ever used to describe specific conditions, they still don’t explain what it actually feels like.  That’s where stories can play an important role.

Reed’s ‘Crazy’ is one of those stories. It explores a mental health crisis through the eyes of those experiencing it. Told in a modern epistolary style through emails and instant messages between two teenagers, it has an immediacy and deeply personal feel that works well with the subject matter.  After meeting at camp, Izzy and Connor start exchanging emails and chatting online. It soon becomes clear that something isn’t right. Izzy’s highs are too high and her lows are scary and dangerous. Continue reading

Guardian Voluntary Sector Network Xmas Volunteering

Representing online volunteering in the Guardian

Just before Christmas I wrote a piece for the Guardian on why I volunteer at Christmas. It was a pic of Xmas volunteering piecepersonal explanation of my motivation to volunteer, why I’ve continued to do so since leaving YouthNet and why it’s particularly important at Christmas.

It was one of a series on Christmas volunteering. It was the only one about online or virtual volunteering. I’m glad it was represented  – I’ve managed online volunteers for many years and have seen it becoming increasingly popular, especially in support work. I wanted to explain in a bit more detail how it can have as much, if not more, impact as your more traditional face to face volunteering.

A more detailed description of what running a live support chat is actually like can be found here.  Here’s some more info on the volunteer role I managed for five years – online peer advisors. If you’d like to chat support volunteering, virtual volunteering, training volunteers and giving peer support online, drop me a line.

Now I’m off to open up TheSite.org chat room for another Sunday support session.

 

Moderating real time support chat with TheSite community

What does moderating real time support chat online for 10 – 25 young community members involve?

thesite.org

Support chat

Every other Sunday I moderate support chat on TheSite.org. TheSite runs a number of types offostress meet the moderator chat – I’ve also been an expert for their recent Mindfulness chat. I used to do moderation as part of my role as Advice and Training Manager at YouthNet – but since leaving I have continued in a volunteer capacity.

Support chat is the most common type of chat. For two hours, four evenings a week, the chat room is open for anyone to sign into. Usually it’s community members who come along (young people who are regular chat and discussion forum users) but sometimes it’s a gateway for new people to discover TheSite’s support service. Chatting in real time helps to strengthen the community who gather around the discussion forums. And sometimes regular forum users come into chat under a different name to discuss a more confidential issue.

Support chat is a group peer support space. It allows young people to chat in real time about their difficulties, get peer support from others and give people the benefit of their own experiences and suggestions. Sometimes it is a space for chat and distraction.

It’s a non judgmental and safe space. It is the role of the moderator to keep it that way – even when it gets very busy. Sometimes the chat transcripts can run to 80-100 pages when downloaded into Word. That’s a lot of support for an evening. In general there is a strong focus on managing mental health and wellbeing, although lots of other topics come up too. These can include friendships, relationships, self harm, accessing health services, school and college, online dating, bereavement, music and X Factor (to name a few!).

A moderator’s role

As a moderator I will be ensuring that everybody in the chat gets support and noone is ignored. This can involve offering suggestions and signposts or encouraging others to offer peer support. I am not there as a counsellor and would never diagnose or tell someone what they should do. Instead I am there to facilitate peer support, to give young people the space to talk and help them decide what courses of action are right for them. Continue reading

What exactly IS Mindfulness? Chatting with young people on TheSite.org

Earlier this month I found myself back at YouthNet Towers, this time as an expert for one of their expert chats. The Engagement and Support team at YouthNet oversee the running of a number of types of online chat. These include support chat (I also moderate support chats as a volunteer), general chat, film and book club chat, positive thinking chat and expert chat. You can read more about the different types here. Chats take place in a safe chat room space with a trained moderator present at all times.

Expert chats

For expert chats, the team invite experts in to answer questions from the community. I answered questions on Mindfulness. There’s a taster of the transcript below but for the whole chat, have a look at the chat archives. It was an interesting experience working as an expert – especially as I have moderated many expert chats in the past. Mindfulness was a difficult topic to explain quickly in a chat environment but I hope that the young people who attended at least received a taster of what it involves as well as links to places where they can explore further.

Community members have since posted threads  about Mindfulness on TheSite discussion forum which I have answered in my role as volunteer moderator.

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I’d like more mindfulness chats, I liked learning about it and want to learn more. It was the first one I’d ever been to and I loved it

– young person on TheSite.org

Mental health information articles for 16-25 year olds

Information on recent mental health support writing for young people

logo of thesite.org

I recently completed two articles for TheSite’s new Anxiety and Depression section. Trouble getting help for mental health and Online Counselling.

Writing for young people

The aim of The Site.org content is to provide clear, straight talking and supportive information for young people. Articles respond to questions young people search for and help them to understand their situation and options.

Trouble getting help for mental health

This article helps young people who have taken steps towards accessing support but have struggled to get the help they need. This might be because their GP didn’t respond how they had hoped; they have been referred but haven’t yet heard anything; counselling didn’t work or they didn’t like their therapist.

It aims to give reassurance, emotional support and practical solutions.

Accessing your GP can be a struggle. All too often young people fall through the gaps. This was obvious every day in the work I did in YouthNet’s Engagement and Support team on overcoming barriers to support. I hope that articles like this one and services such as Doc Ready will help young people feel more able to get the help they deserve from mental health services.

I’m really really pleased with this piece. There’s a bright future in front of you. Any writer who can follow a brief is worth their weight in gold!

Holly Thompson – TheSite.org Editorial Team

Online counselling

This article gives an overview of the types of online counselling available for young people. It also gives them the information to help them decide if it is right for them. It includes information on online self-help services (both open and prescribed) and one to one counselling support online. It also looks at where and how it is accessed and how to tell if a service is reputable.

 

What do we need to get help from our GP for mental health? Reassurance, realistic expectations and a plan.

Helping you get help from your GP

NHS services think that they are a series of entrances – but actually they are a series of barriers

Yesterday, I went down to Brighton for the launch of Doc Ready – a new digital tool (a website and soon to be app) that helps young people get the most out of a visit to their GP about mental health. Have a look. It’s got clear and practical information about what young people should expect from a visit. It enables them to search for a GP and create a checklist of things to remember in the appointment.

The above quote – which I am sure many of us can relate to – was something a young person said during one of the engagement workshops run by Right Here in Brighton during the development of the product.

But what struck me was that this young person seems further along the process of understanding, evaluating and therefore being able to access effective support than many. Maybe this is a result of being given a chance to reflect on their experiences in the workshops or perhaps they have just come to this realisation having faced and overcome many barriers. Either way this young person is in a position to evaluate their experience and recognise that getting support for mental health isn’t always easy. They know that many, if not all, of the barriers are not their ‘fault’. Continue reading

Wilderness, jungle or ecosystem? Does the language often used to talk about ‘online’ encourage unhelpful assumptions and distinctions?

The power of language

Language is a powerful tool. I’ve written before about the value of metaphor in mental health tweetsupport and how it can reframe and change perception as well as helping people understand subjective experience. Language is also a tricky thing – the way we frame things in words can influence how we think about them and what assumptions we make about what they describe.

‘Young People in the Internet Wilderness: A Psychological Time-Bomb?

I found myself thinking a lot about language last week while at a joint Young Minds and ACAMH conference. Since appearing in my inbox, the title of the conference had intrigued me. It was called ‘Young People in the Internet Wilderness: A Psychological Time-Bomb? What CAMH professionals and service providers need to know to respond effectively’. The language used seemed to convey quite a negative view of how young people experience online spaces and I was interested to see whether this was a realistic interpretation of the conference organisers viewpoint, or just a catchy title to draw people in. As a massive advocate of online peer support, I also wondered why a workshop on the subject was called ‘Why online support is so popular and why it isn’t always bad’. Why not call it ‘The increasing popularity and benefits of online support’?. Continue reading