“Early-Stage Innovation Centered on Making for Youth Mental Health: A Design-Led Approach”

In his recent publication, Nick Bell (Chair of Communication Design,University of the Arts London) presents the action-research of ‘Early Lab’, an early-stage design practice working to support social innovation. Nick co-founded Early Lab, which has spent the last three years addressing the well-being and mental health of children and young people in the UK.

“Early Lab prioritizes making—making things to visualize, physicalize, and externalize thoughts and feelings. Making is at the center of its methodology in an approach to very early stage situated participative engagement and co-envisioning with groups of people”

More specifically, the article outlines the progress of a project (beginning in late 2014), which helped Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) begin the transformation of their youth mental health service. NSFT sought to explore approaches and methods from outside of healthcare for this transformation work, with Research Director Dr Jon Wilson at the helm of this endeavour. Early Lab brought teams of design students and academics from University of the Arts London on field trips and hosted a series of making workshops with NSFT service users, NSFT service providers, members of the local CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group), local education professionals, and leaders of local voluntary organizations.

The workshops engaged these experts in “envisioning a new mental health system for children and young people…….and primarily to help NSFT establish the beginnings of a radical new service vision out of the lived experience of those that were supporting it, using it, and delivering it at that moment”.

One workshop was held in Cambourne, Cambridgeshire following an invite from NIHR CLAHRC EoE. It was delivered at a one-day symposium, for just an hour, and sought to address the question of how health and education professionals can work together better to succeed in their support of the wellbeing of children in schools.

This innovative project has fed into a large programme of research and transformation work which has resulted in the establishment of a new Youth Mental Health service in NSFT, which provides care from 14 to 25yrs, extending beyond the usual 18yr old transition point.

Full article: Early-Stage Innovation Centered on Making for Youth Mental Health- A Design-Led Approach 

Related research:

For information on CLAHRC Fellowships that have fed into the NSFT Youth Service transformation, please see here: Norfolk Mental Health Youth Services – extending provision to 25yrs

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