Over 200 people working with children and young people attended the first pan-Sussex Digital Mental Health Communications Training Programme in November 2022 with 94% of attendees rating it as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’.

Funded by Health Education England, the training was developed by e-wellbeing (part of YMCA DownsLink Group) and Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network (KSS AHSN), and evaluated by Unity Insights. The training offered practical insights into how to best use digital platforms to engage Children and Young People (CYP).  The specialist training was developed in response to the findings of the Sussex-wide Digital Mental Health Review which highlighted a range of key insights into how CYP want to access information and seek further support around their mental health.

Alongside experienced therapeutic and digital professionals from YMCA Dialogue (the counselling arm of YMCA DownsLink Group), the training was co-delivered by e-wellbeing Youth Ambassadors who are aged 16-25 and are passionate about youth mental health and wellbeing. The inclusion of youth ambassadors ensured that both ‘youth voices’ and ‘lived experience’ formed a fundamental part of the training, which was a key recommendation from the initial report.

One participant from Brighton & Hove said:

“Brilliant training. It was powerful having e-wellbeing ambassadors involved in the training and sharing their own personal experiences and what they like when accessing services.”

Increasingly digital platforms are the way in which CYP access information about mental health issues. This puts pressure on mental health professionals, who may not be digital natives, to know how best to communicate on those platforms to effectively engage with this audience. The training provided practical ideas about how to co-create services and collaborate with children and young people to improve outcomes.

Training sessions were offered over Zoom tailored to one of three localities: Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, and West Sussex. The sessions included a range of elements including; the importance of embedding a trauma-informed approach; how to embed diversity, inclusion, and accessibility; the importance of including youth voices to improve engagement; youth-led discussion activities; a digital engagement case study and videos of young people sharing their tips for best practice.

Becca Randell, Kent, Surrey and Sussex Implementation Lead Children’s Mental Health, KSS AHSN said:

“This training programme is a powerful example of how we can successfully co-design tailored mental health programmes with young people to ensure that future mental health solutions meet their needs. The positive attendee feedback indicates that this training will be invaluable in building the confidence of our delivery partners in digital communications. Embedding programmes like this across our region is crucial for delivering on the digital ambitions and recommendations set out in the digital mental health review.”

The full report, including feedback and further recommendations from participants and e-wellbeing Youth Ambassadors, along with resources from the training can be downloaded on YMCA DownsLink Group’s website.