Mental health issues affect about 1 in 10 young people in the UK. MH:2K gives young people a leadership role in solving this most important of challenges. It empowers 14-25 years old to identify the mental health issues they see as most important, engage their peers in exploring these topics, and work with decision-makers to make recommendations for change.

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Mental health conditions affect about 1 in 10 children and young people. 75% of mental health problems in adult life, excluding dementia, start before age eighteen. Given this, it is perhaps unsurprising that young people consistently identify mental health as a priority issue.

Through MH:2K we give young people a role in solving this most important of challenges. We focus on working with young people who have direct experience of mental health issues or who are from at-risk groups. Just as importantly, we also work with local decision-makers and researchers.

For the young people, we empower them to:
- Identify the mental health issues that they see as most important;
- Engage their peers in discussing and exploring these topics;
- Work with key decision-makers and researchers to make recommendations for change.

For decision-makers and researchers, we help them to harness young people’s experiences and views. They develop a deeper understanding of youth mental health issues, prevention, support and services in their area. They also gain new insights about effective solutions.

MH:2K builds on good engagement practice from within and beyond the youth mental health field. Specifically, it features:
- End-to-end youth leadership: Young people decide its focus, co-lead its events, and determine its findings and recommendations.
- Peer-to-peer engagement: By empowering young people to reach out to their peers, MH:2K creates a safe and engaging space for participants.
- Close collaboration with key decision-makers and researchers: By involving key figures in the project from its start, MH:2K builds trust, enthusiasm and commitment, and the implementation of its recommendations.

In each local area, MH:2K involves the following six activities:
1.Recruitment: We recruit a core team of young people as ‘Citizen Researchers’, including those with direct experience of mental health issues and from at-risk groups.
2.Design Days: We support this team to explore key national and local information about youth mental health, alongside their own views and experiences. The Citizen Researchers determine which mental health issues are most significant for their area. They receive training in facilitation and public speaking.
3.Roadshow: Citizen Researchers co-design and co-deliver workshops to engage at least 500 other young people in answering questions about their priority topics. The Roadshow workshops stimulate informal learning and gather young people’s views on the issues they face and potential solutions.
4.Results Day: Citizen Researchers analyse and extract key findings from the Roadshow data. They work with local decision-makers and researchers to develop strong, practical recommendations for change.
5.Big Showcase: Citizen Researchers present their findings and recommendations to key stakeholders at a showcase event, involving facilitated conversations about next steps.
6. A Local Advisory Panel of key local decision-makers, researchers and other stakeholders informs the project’s work throughout its lifetime.

MH:2K’s six-part design is intended to work in any UK local area.

From 2016 to 2017, Involve and Leaders Unlocked piloted MH:2K in Oldham (a metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester, England). MH:2K Oldham engaged over 600 local young people with diverse backgrounds and life experiences. Since then, the project has run in North Tyneside, Birmingham, Central Lancashire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

The original evaluation in Oldham found evidence of significant impacts. It noted that:

Decision-makers and researchers identified “multiple potential impacts on research, decision- making and engagement practice” in Oldham and Greater Manchester, with “potential for significant improvements in health outcomes”. This included the setting-up of a task and finish group, reporting to Oldham’s Health and Wellbeing Board to drive forward implementation of the project’s recommendations.

Among other changes, Citizen Researchers and Roadshow participants reported increased knowledge about mental health. They reported learning or improving hard and soft skills, and some noted further impacts, for example, changes to their career plans.

One year later, MH:2K’s recommendations had been mapped against pre-existing plans to identify gaps and match actions to current activities. This has included on-going consultation with the Citizen Researchers to check the detail of their recommendations. Several quick wins had been implemented via existing activities, or plans were adapted or confirmed to fit with the recommendations. These include the development of primary school resources, training for schools, involving young people in creating accessible information about mental health, and new professional guidance for those working with young people.

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