My Voice Matters

For Children’s Mental Health Week 2024, Gill Attrill OBE, Director of the UKRI Adolescence, Mental Health and Developing Mind initiative shares how the theme of My Voice Matters is at the heart of the initiative.

How do I know when my voice matters? People genuinely listen. They read my messages. They invite me to conversations. They refer back to things I’ve said. They engage with my ideas. They act on my suggestions. They invite me to speak again. As an adult, working in the field of mental health for children and young people and in justice, I see this feedback loop working over and over for myself and the adults I work with.

But, as we all know, children and young people are the true experts in their own lives. Young people themselves have crucial insights, experiences and ideas that can help to shape solutions for themselves and for their friends and peers. Yet they don’t always have the power to give a platform to their views.

That’s why the theme of this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week: ‘My Voice Matters’ is so important. And it’s why we have a major focus on foregrounding young people’s views in our multi-million-pound investment in mental health research: the UKRI Adolescence, Mental Health and Developing Mind initiative.

Young people helped to inspire the programme itself. They helped to scrutinise applications and make decisions about which projects should be funded. And now, they play a critical role both as research advisers and as participants, across the seven flagship projects and a host of studies developing better tools for understanding mental health and wellbeing.

These advisory groups have helped shape the focus and the future of the research. For a great insight into the rewards and challenges of this work, listen to Ben and Max talking about youth involvement in this podcast from the ATTUNE project. They cover young people’s advisory groups influences on the language used and strategies for recruitment, to ethical considerations and creative contributions.

Gruop of four young people sat on a sofa talking and laughing.

A new blog from the RE-SET project showcases young people’s involvement in designing their group programme that aims to strengthen resilience through socio-emotional training. Young people came up with ways to explain the concepts underlying the programme in ways their peers would understand, and suggested scenarios for the skills training that would resonate with others. As the research team said, ‘using approaches like ours, researchers are able to develop interventions that are relevant and accessible’.

We’re so proud of the Young Research advisors across the programme. And we’re so pleased when their work gets noticed! Congratulations to the Young Researcher Panel to the RE-STAR project who won their category at the inaugural King’s Engaged Research Awards. The panel of young adults with a diagnosis of autism or ADHD are co-producing the project which aims to find new ways of reducing depression in neurodivergent young people.

And that really is the point of involving young people in co-production: improving the quality of mental health research and making sure that findings land where they need to. And we really want young people involved as co-researchers to be able to say truly ‘My Voice Matters’.

For more details of the ways young people are getting involved with the Adolescence, Mental Health and Developing Mind initiative, sign up here for our email bulletin. We’d love you to be part of the journey.