Young people from across Sussex have made recommendations aimed at improving digital mental health services in a new report.

The report, the “Pan-Sussex Children and Young People’s Mental Health Digital Review”, is based on the experiences and perceptions of young people who shared their views in a survey and took part in a number of events over the summer. The survey aimed to identify gaps in digital provision of Children and Young Peoples’ (CYP) mental health and emotional wellbeing services (age up to 25) in Sussex and to find out from young people how services could be improved.

Key findings include:
• 85% said online mental health support was useful
• 66% of young people accessed online support for the first time during the pandemic
• 60% of young people said they would like a mixture of face-to-face and online support in the future
• 27% were referred to online services by their GP
• 19% had existing therapy moved online due to the pandemic.

The report also calls for a Sussex-wide CYP Mental Health Digital Strategy which should include principles for developing digital solutions, implementing digital working and digital ambitions co-produced by young people. It recommends that the strategy should be embedded within the emerging Sussex-wide CYP Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Strategy and aligned to Sussex Health and Care Partnership’s digital ambition.

The review follows research that highlighted how symptoms of anxiety and depression among young people increased during the pandemic. In addition, a survey conducted by Young Minds (January 2021), found 75% of young people struggled to cope during lockdown, citing loneliness, isolation, changes to academic learning, concerns about the future and other fears which had affected their mental health and wellbeing.

Phoebe, e-wellbeing Youth Ambassador, YMCA DownsLink Group said:
“I am so pleased I participated in this digital mental health review. I enjoyed attending the meetings and sharing my suggestions with senior executives from the NHS and other organisations on how they can improve services for young people.”

Becca Randell, Implementation Lead, Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network, said:
“This review has enabled young people to talk about how well digital mental health services are meeting their needs and to give their view and experiences of improvements that can be made. We will work with key organisations across Sussex to ensure the digital ambitions developed by young people and the recommendations are taken forward.”

Nicola Harvey, Digital and Engagement Lead, YMCA DownsLink Group, said:
“YMCA DownsLink Group are delighted to be involved in this digital review. Our expertise lies in ensuring youth voice is always part of the process of creating mental health resources and services that actually work for young people. We are passionate about including young people in the process so that they can access the mental health services they really need, in a way that is accessible to them.”

The report is funded by NHS England and delivered by YMCA DownsLink Group in partnership with Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network.

To read the full report, download it here.

For more information or to provide feedback on this review

Please contact Becca Randell, Implementation Lead, Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network via or Nicola Harvey, Digital and Engagement Lead, YMCA DownsLink Group, at