Around 90 people from in and around Sussex came together at an event held on 16 June to pledge their support and help develop ambitions around community-based emotional wellbeing and mental health youth interventions for 16-25 year olds.

Representatives for the education, voluntary, community sector, children’s social care, local authorities, Integrated Care System, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, as well as young people themselves, attended at the Sussex Youth Mental Health ‘call to action’ Summit, in Brighton, to find ways to change and help reform mental health and wellbeing services for young people.

The event, co-ordinated by Kent, Surrey and Sussex Academic Health Science Network (KSS AHSN), NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS) in partnership with Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (SPFT) and was co-facilitated by young people from Varndean School in Brighton.

In support of the event, Member of Parliament for Chichester and Minister of State for Care and Mental Health, Gillian Keegan MP, gave the opening address by video message to all attendees thanking them for dedication to improving mental health and wellbeing services for children and young people across Sussex.

She said: “We know that currently too many young people, particularly children and young people, do not have the tools they need to support looking after their wellbeing or prevent mental health problems from escalating. I know there is more to do, one of the key priorities that I have as minister with responsibility for mental health is ensuring that anyone needing mental health services is able to access them and access them quickly. No matter where you grow up, your background, our children and young people deserve the opportunity to grow up in and stay in good mental health.

“The last two years have been particularly difficult for our children and young people with their lives and education disrupted but, as we learn to rebuild and learn to live with Covid-19, it is vital that we support our children and young people with their mental health and wellbeing.

“We all have a role to play in resetting the way we approach mental health and we need to continue that conversation about mental health, particularly for children and young people and those parts of the community that are more difficult to reach.

Gillian Keegan – MP for Chichester and Minister for Care and Mental Health – provided a message from the House of Commons to those attending the Youth Summit on 16 June. She has also kindly agreed to meet with key stakeholders and young people who will share the outputs of the event.

This was followed by a range of different speakers, including:

Dr Rick Fraser, Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Lead Youth Pathway, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, who said: “At no point in recent history has it been more important that we work to support the mental wellbeing of young people as we emerge from a pandemic, and into a period of economic hardship.

“We need to invest in our young people who will be the leaders and workforce of the future. Coming together to review our system offer in Sussex, for young people’s mental health and wellbeing, is crucial in order to make sure we have services that are easy to access, joined up, coproduced and fit for purpose.

“Keeping young people at the centre of this work will ensure we are building services that will be user-friendly and effective. It is also essential that we research and evaluate as we progress. I am grateful to everyone who has supported this work, the AHSN and ARC who have helped to make this summit a reality and I look forward to developing our shared vision together.”

International and National Exemplar, Professor Pat McGorry AO, Professor of Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne, who shared learning from Australia as to how local regions can overcome barriers to collaborative working.

Alistair McGrory and team from Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust explained the work currently taking place across the region.

Professor David Fowler, ARC KSS Starting Well: Children and Young People’s Mental Health Lead, talked about how research conducted to help develop better outcomes for 16-25year olds in Sussex. He said: “I am delighted to have been involved in this summit with so many key partners from across Sussex involved in the delivery of mental health services for children and young people aged 16-25.

“It has also been a privilege to meet so many young people themselves and a great opportunity to discuss the research we are currently undertaking to develop community-based youth mental health interventions in collaboration with key stakeholders from across the region.”

In the afternoon, members of the audience were asked to agree their collective ambitions and pledge their commitment to improving outcomes for 16-25 year olds.

Find out more

For further information on ARC KSS Starting Well Children’s Mental Health Projects visit the NIHR ARC Kent Surrey Sussex website.