BLOG: Natasha White reports on #GoodOutcomesCYMH
"This is how it should be. How can we encourage youth participation in child mental health if the academics underpinning the matter is inaccessible to those who wish to participate?" - Young Champion Natasha White reports on the EBPU event, What Constitutes a Good Outcome in Child Mental Health.
On Monday 3rd July, I found myself at the Royal Society of Medicine at 9:30 in the morning, ready to attend the conference ‘What constitutes a good outcome in child mental health?’ (which is the subject of Karolin Krause’s PhD research). I must confess - I had absolutely no prior experience of academic conferences. I feel that I am best positioned to offer the perspective of novice, and of someone who has been a service user for many years.
Simply put, I did not expect the day to be so interesting! For me, it was an introduction of-sorts to the world of academia behind child mental health care – which, quite frankly, I did not realise existed. It is both peculiar and reassuring to think that while I was sitting in therapy sessions week after week, there was entire community of people researching and collaborating on best practice in child mental health.
The highlight of the day was, without a doubt, hearing Jack and Kelsey talk about their experiences. Jack, a mental health advocate, focused on outcomes relating to autism, highlighting the need for greater investment and also more research into understanding autism – not curing it. Kelsey, an Anna Freud Centre Young Champion, raised the issue of ‘revolving door patients’. All too often, there is a lack of immediate support for inpatients after they leave. These individuals are more likely to end up in inpatient treatment again.
I was utterly fascinated by Dr Praveetha Patalay’s presentation; she put forward the idea that child mental ill-health and child wellbeing could exist independently of each other. (Mental wellbeing refers to a child’s happiness within different areas of their life.) Hence, a child could experience the symptoms of poor mental health yet still have good wellbeing. I had never considered this before, even as a mentally ill child myself! Perhaps good wellbeing should be the foremost aim in child mental health treatment.
I could not have anticipated that philosophers from Oxford and Cambridge would be part of an event dealing with child mental health, but in hindsight, their perspectives were refreshing and fascinating. Dr Edward Harcourt took us on a whistle-stop tour of ‘epistemic injustice’ and Kantian ideas of personhood. Dr Anna Alexandrova, on the other hand, introduced us to her mission to develop a theory of child wellbeing, which is currently non-existent in philosophy.
Of course, I have barely touched on what happened that day! I must mention Professor Miranda Wolpert, Kate Martin, Dr Jess Deighton and Dr Jan Böhnke, who all gave brilliant presentations and contributed to the panel at the end of the day.
Ultimately, I am trying to convey that the day was enjoyable, yes, but also accessible. Despite my education reaching only GCSE level, I was able to follow along in every presentation. I was even able to understand the alien-sounding concept of epistemic injustice! This is how it should be. How can we encourage youth participation in child mental health if the academics underpinning the matter is inaccessible to those who wish to participate? I believe we all agree that young voices are invaluable in improving mental health services; we should enable those voices to grow and learn.