Mental health

How local collaboration is helping us tackle the mental health crisis

West Yorkshire provides a perfect example of how a joined-up local response can beat the postcode lottery of mental health support, explains Helen McGlinchey

West Yorkshire provides a perfect example of how a joined-up local response can beat the postcode lottery of mental health support, explains Helen McGlinchey

20 Nov 2023, 5:00

The young people’s mental health crisis has been on a steep upward trajectory and shows no signs of slowing down. The combination of a global pandemic, climate worries, cultural shifts and political changes have made an already challenging situation even more complex.  

Data outlined by Young Minds reveals that the number of children in mental health crisis has reached record levels. Year-on-year reflections tell a sobering story: In the 12 months to March 2023, there were 21,555 urgent referrals to mental health crisis teams, up 46 per cent on the previous year.

These shocking statistics are also reflected at a regional level, with West Yorkshire seeing sharp rises in young people accessing mental health support. However, the region has paved the way in tackling this crisis by working collaboratively with local partners to develop a whole-system approach.

The THRIVE Elaborated model has been a cornerstone of the regional mental healthcare framework. Services across West Yorkshire  are committed to this model, which conceptualises need into five categories: thriving, getting advice, getting help, getting more help and getting risk support. Not only is this model person-centred and needs-led, but it allows for a more integrated approach to delivering mental health services for children, young people and families.

Although some services  are responding within one category, this multi-agency approach enables services and providers to offer onward referrals, identifying clear referral pathways so that young people get the appropriate help and support.

This model is being delivered across the region in many ways. One is the Leeds MindMate Single Point of Access (SPA). Commissioned by the NHS, this service offers a partnership approach for young people seeking mental health and emotional wellbeing support.

A multi-agency offer can lead to more accessible services

Young people, their parents and carers as well as professionals and schools can all make a referral which is then triaged by a practitioner. This is where we see this multi-agency approach come to life, as Leeds MindMate SPA works with many services, schools and providers across the city to identify the most appropriate route of care and support. These integrated approaches support early intervention, aiming to give young people effective and timely support.

To be successful in tackling youth mental health issues, we must first uncover their root causes and implement prevention measures. The impact that trauma can have on children’s, young people’s and families’ mental health is immense – which is why Leeds has identified trauma as a key priority for its Future in Mind strategy.

Leading with a trauma-informed approach, the city’s clinical commissioning groups and local authorities have joined forces to support this approach across services for children and families. A steering group involving partners and service users from across West Yorkshire was developed to drive the approach forward. Thanks to this collaborative work, a trauma-informed approach has been implemented in Leeds which harnesses knowledge, experience and expertise within the city, allowing partners to work together to best support the city’s population.

An early help strategy further promotes this partnership approach, recognising the needs of young people and their families as early as possible. The offer sees many local agencies working together with families to identify and meet their needs. The development and implementation of these multi-agency offers can lead to more streamlined and accessible services, ensuring that children and families in need can have the right conversation with the right people at the right time.

Our lack of universal provision at a national level means that many children and young people are unwillingly entered into a postcode lottery, resulting in inequality of access and outcomes. This puts the onus on regions to meet local needs.

Mental health support differs from region to region, and there is still work to be done in West Yorkshire to address increasing need, but we are setting the example for taking collective local action in the interests of young people.

Regardless of each area’s starting point, it is clear that a system-wide, multi-agency focus on the needs of young people is essential to early prevention and timely intervention.

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