Local government

How can young people help tackle mental ill-health?


Mental health conditions affect about 1 in 10 children and young people. 75% of mental health problems in adult life, excluding dementia, start before age eighteen. Given this, it is perhaps unsurprising that young people consistently identify mental health as a priority issue.

Through MH:2K we give young people a role in solving this most important of challenges. We focus on working with young people who have direct experience of mental health issues or who are from at-risk groups. Just as importantly, we also work with local decision-makers and researchers.

For the young people, we empower them to:

  • Identify the mental health issues that they see as most important;
  • Engage their peers in discussing and exploring these topics;
  • Work with key decision-makers and researchers to make recommendations for change.

For decision-makers and researchers, we help them to harness young people’s experiences and views. They develop a deeper understanding of youth mental health issues, prevention, support and services in their area. They also gain new insights about effective solutions. They become able to better serve the diversity of their youth populations.

Since September 2017, a National Advisory Panel of decision-makers and researchers has been working with us to look at the national implications of MH:2K’s work.

If you have questions about MH:2K or are interested in running the programme in your area, please contact [email protected]

Read on to find out more about what we’re doing, who’s involved, what we’ve achieved, reports and resources, and testimonials. 

What we’re doing

MH:2K in local areas

In each local area we work in, MH:2K involves the following six activities:

  • Recruitment: We recruit a core team of young people as ‘Citizen Researchers’, including those with direct experience of mental health issues and from at risk groups.
  • Design Days: We support this team to explore key national and local information about youth mental health, alongside their own views and experiences. The Citizen Researchers determine which mental health issues are most significant for their area. They receive training in facilitation and public speaking.
  • Roadshow: The Citizen Researchers co-design and co-deliver workshops to engage at least 500 other young people in answering questions about their priority topics. The Roadshow workshops stimulate informal learning and gather young people’s views on the issues they face and potential solutions.
  • Results Day: The Citizen Researchers analyse and extract key findings from the Roadshow data. They work with local decision-makers and researchers to develop strong, practical recommendations for change.
  • Big Showcase: The Citizen Researchers present their findings and recommendations to key stakeholders at a showcase event, involving facilitated conversations about next steps.
  • A Local Advisory Panel of key local decision-makers, researchers and other stakeholders informs the project’s work throughout its lifetime.

For more information about MH:2K’s methodology or running it in your area, please contact [email protected].

MH:2K – the national implications

We are currently analysing findings from across our MH:2K local areas to produce a national picture of what constitutes a ‘mentally healthy area’. We expect to launch the results of this work in Autumn 2018. Sign up to our newsletter to stay in touch.

We are also looking at the implications of MH:2K’s six-part Citizen Researcher methodology for engagement within and beyond the field of youth mental health. Stay in touch to find out more. 

Who’s involved

We run MH:2K with our project partner Leaders Unlocked.

In 2016/17, we piloted MH:2K in Oldham, supported by a Wellcome Trust People Award, Oldham Council and Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group. 

In 2017/18, we expanded the programme to work with four more areas: Birmingham, Central Lancashire, North Tyneside, and Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. As noted above, a National Advisory Panel is tracking the project to identify nationally relevant learning. This expanded phase of MH:2K is again supported by the Wellcome Trust, as well as by the four participating local areas.

What we’ve achieved

MH:2K in Oldham

The original evaluation of MH:2K’s pilot in Oldham found evidence of significant impacts. It noted that:

  • Decision-makers and researchers had identified “multiple potential impacts on research, decision- making and engagement practice” in Oldham and Greater Manchester, with “potential for significant improvements in health outcomes”. These included the setting-up of a task and finish group, ultimately reporting to Oldham’s Health and Wellbeing Board, to drive forward implementation of the project’s recommendations. 

  • There had been significant impacts on the young people involved. Among other changes, Citizen Researchers and Roadshow participants alike reported increased knowledge about mental health. Citizen Researchers reported learning or improving hard and soft skills, and some noted further impacts, for example, changes to their career plans.

Read the full evaluation report.

Our independent evaluator has also returned to Oldham one year on to see what has changed. Initial results show that decision-makers have:

  • Mapped MH:2K’s recommendations against pre-existing plans to identify gaps and match actions to current activities. This has included on-going consultation with the Citizen Researchers to check the detail of their recommendations.
  • The implementation of several quick wins via existing activities, or plans that were adapted or confirmed to fit with MH:2K’s recommendations. These include the development of primary school resources, training for schools, involving young people in creating accessible information about mental health, and new professional guidance for those working with young people.
  • The use of Opportunity Area funding to implement further activity on school-focused recommendations (including “mini MH:2Ks” to engage school children further in relevant recommendations). Oldham has also MH:2K to support a successful funding bid for local libraries.

Mental health has always been a priority in our youth services, but I think MH:2K has such value that other services are seeing the importance of it in informing their work. I have a lot of people emailing me to ask what the young people said about “x”, so I’ve been sending out the report a lot.

Oldham decision-maker

The full report from this return visit will be available here soon.

MH:2K in 2017/18

Initial results from the 2017/18 evaluation suggest significant impacts on decision-makers, researchers, and the young people involved. Across the four local areas:

  • 92.8% of decision-makers and researchers who attended a Big Showcase event said that the recommendations are very useful; and 98.5% agreed or strongly agreed that they would do something new or differently as a result of the project; 

  • Citizen Researchers reported experiencing significant benefits. Among other examples, 91% said that their knowledge of mental health issues had increased. 89% identified improvements to their presentation skills, 86% to their confidence and 82% to their feelings of wellbeing. 86% said that they now felt more optimistic about their future. 

  • Roadshow participants only spent one hour engaged with the project, but 60% reported gaining a greater awareness of where to go for help, and 47% said they would now have more confidence to seek help if they needed it. 

The full evaluation report from 2017/18 will be available here as soon as it is ready.

Reports and resources

All the reports and resources from MH:2K are published on the Involve or Leaders Unlocked websites as soon as they are complete. These include the findings of MH:2K’s independent evaluation. Currently available are:

Results, resources and evaluation from MH:2K Oldham.

Results and resources from MH:2K North Tyneside.

The reports for North Tyneside, Birmingham, Central Lancashire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, and the 2017/18 independent evaluation are coming soon.


“To be a part of this project means a lot to me, considering where I was 8 months ago. I feel elated about the Roadshow. Some of the pupils we presented to didn’t want to leave, which I think says it all!”

MH:2K Oldham Citizen Researcher

“I have been hugely impressed by MH:2K’s progress so far. I have every confidence that it will deliver valuable insights into what Oldham Council can do to improve youth mental health. I am proud to be part of it.”

Alan Higgins, Director of Public Health, Oldham Council

“It is great to see the CCG, Council, schools and others come together to listen to young people’s concerns and ideas around mental health and well-being. I look forward to working with colleagues at Oldham CCG to take on board the project’s findings and improve outcomes for local young people.”

Keith Jeffery, Clinical Director for Mental Health for Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group

“As a global health foundation, Wellcome is interested in finding new ways to involve people in research, and we’re excited to support MH:2K because they are doing just that.  Mental health is a key issue for young people, that’s why it is so important to have them at the heart of finding meaningful solutions.”

Anna Pollard, Engaging Science Portfolio Manager, Wellcome

Get involved

For more information about MH:2K, including how to get involved please contact [email protected]


Listing and header photos: Nicola Gotts Photography Ltd