Imagine a global conference focussed on young people’s mental health, looking at innovations and interventions…

In late September 2022, Becca Randell attended the International Association for Youth Mental Health (IAYMH) annual conference in Copenhagen. Becca is Children and Young People Mental Health Implementation Manager for Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network (KSS AHSN), and Implementation Manager at the Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS).

With her were two colleagues, Claire Vella, Applied Research Collaboration KSS (ARC KSS) PHD Student and Dr Leanne Bogen-Johnston, ARC KSS Starting Well Post Doc. Also representing the local area was Dr Rick Fraser, Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Lead Youth Pathway for Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Pictured at the conference, L to R:
Dr Leanne Bogen-Johnston, ARC KSS Starting Well Post Doc; Claire Vella, ARC KSS PHD Student; Becca Randell, CYP Mental Health Implementation Manager

The theme of the conference was ‘Reimagining Youth Mental Health’, and across three days, the group attended presentations, browsed table-top displays, and explored various topics in workshops, as well as networking and meeting with colleagues from across the world in between sessions. Over 700 people attended, from 49 nations, of whom at least a third were young people. These were involved in planning and co-facilitating the conference, as well as taking an active part in the proceedings.

In addition, Becca herself was invited to a fourth day of sessions focussed on international research into youth mental health. Becca was able to share some of the youth mental health research and work to support the 16-25 pathway redesign agenda in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

Across the four days of the conference, Becca and her colleagues were able to meet both colleagues and young people from across the world, practitioners, clinicians, commissioners, and researchers, all with a focus on the mental health of young people aged 14-25. She says she brought so much back, and the timing has been great, with the increased focus locally on the Youth Mental Health Pathway.

Among the exciting things that Becca explored was the use of digital technology, including VR (virtual reality) and AI (Artificial Intelligence), creating platforms and virtual spaces to support treatment. there was a significant focus on research and interventions for more seldom heard young people including care-leavers, asylum seekers and refugees, and indigenous populations (Native Americans, Māori, and other groups.

Following the conference, Becca and her colleagues are planning to share their learning via the Starting Well network, and the Sussex and Kent 16-25 Integrated Care Board Pathways. There is already commitment to implementing exciting international programmes here, and continuing to develop the work here.

Becca says that the entire event was very well hosted by Denmark, including a visit by Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, and the former Prime Minister and other government ministers.

Monday 10 October 2022 is World Mental Health Awareness Day, and with the theme of “Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority”. This conference is one of many steps towards exactly, that, and we are delighted to have been involved.