How Jigsaw involved young people in an online youth mental health event ‘Youth Talk, We Listen’
Jigsaw is the National Centre for Youth Mental Health in Ireland. At Jigsaw, we are here to make sure that every young person’s mental health is valued and supported. Mental health can affect every aspect of a young person’s life. We believe every young person must have the support that’s right for them, whatever they are going through. To find out more about what we do go to Jigsaw.ie/what-we-do
The project in which we involved young people in decision-making
On 25th June 2020, Jigsaw and HSE Health & Wellbeing co-hosted a unique and innovative online youth mental health event ‘Youth Talk, We Listen’ – Creating future solutions for youth mental health and well-being. Building on previous partnership working and collaboration between Jigsaw and HSE Health and Wellbeing, this event brought together approximately 80 young people from across the country, together with a broad range of stakeholders from Government Departments, HSE, Jigsaw and relevant NGOs to discuss youth mental health and wellbeing.
The event itself took place against a backdrop of some important policy and strategic developments nationally:
The publication of ‘Sharing the Vision’ – the new National Mental Health Policy, highlights a whole systems approach to mental health and providing a focus on prevention, promotion, and early intervention as well as service provision.
The introduction, by the HSE of a Psychosocial Response Framework, particularly in response to the Covid19 situation, acknowledges that mental health and well-being is not the remit of the health sector alone; other Government Departments, Local Authorities, NGOs and the Community and Voluntary Sector all have a key role to play in a whole population-based response.
The development of an HSE National Mental Health Promotion Plan – providing an opportunity for the outcomes from this event to feed into this Plan.
The further development of Jigsaw’s youth mental health promotion works in strengthening communities and influencing change.
Furthermore, the event took place during the most challenging circumstances young people in Ireland have ever experienced with the Covid19 pandemic; while this did feature in the conversations on the day, it was not the primary focus; young people discussed and recommended actions to support their mental health and wellbeing into the future, which will require a whole-systems, whole of Government, multi-agency response
2. The topic on which we were looking for their views
We wanted young people’s views on solutions to promoting youth mental health.
3. The reason we wanted their views
The reason we wanted their views were threefold:
To provide young people with the opportunity to identify solutions and to bring ‘calls to action” that may have an impact on key policies and strategic developments nationally
To consider with young people some of the key findings from the My World Survey 2 on Youth Mental Health, published in Nov. 2019 (by the School of Psychology, UCD and Jigsaw)
To listen to the views of young people themselves about their mental health and well-being experiences in the contexts of where they live, learn, work and play
4. The decision-makers that listened to their views
The key decision-makers at the event were the HSE Health and Wellbeing and Jigsaw, the national centre for youth mental health. There were several other key stakeholders and decision-makers such as Spun Out, BeLongTo Youth Services, Foroige, the National Youth Council of Ireland, Children and Young People Service Committees (CYPCSC), the Irish Second-Level Students Union and others.
5. The young people who took part
The young people who took part in the event were aged 16 – 25 years of age. They came from a diverse range of backgrounds and geographic locations around Ireland. In the main they were young people who volunteered with partner stakeholders such as Jigsaw, Foroige and SpunOut.
How we gave space, voice, audience and influence to young people’s views
How we ensured a safe and inclusive space to hear the views of young people
Things we considered
What we did
The space or setting where we got their views (this may include online settings)
The session took place online given as we were unable to gather in a face-to-face fashion due to Government health restrictions in place at the time.
This enabled us to use break-out spaces to engage the voice of young people and allow for smaller groups, which would then feed into the main group.
How you identified the children and young people to be involved
The event was highlighted through partner organisations’ channels with young people that either volunteered with them or they had contact with them.
How you involved those who were directly affected by the topic
Young people were “recruited” through Jigsaw and partnering organisations’ youth networks including volunteers and service users – The flier can be seen here.
Jigsaw analytics show, as of 2022, that approx. 60% of our volunteers have experience of using services such as Jigsaw or other mental health services in the community. This would tell us that in all probability more than half of the Jigsaw volunteers present would have a lived experience of some mental health difficulties.
All young people have mental health, in the same way as they have physical or mental health, therefore the topic being discussed impacts all young people present at the event.
The issues relating to the promotion of mental health affect all young people so again the topics affected all young people present.
How early in the process they were involved in decision-making
Youth Advocates from Jigsaw were involved from the concept creation stage, in terms of outlining the purpose and focus of the event.
Those advocates sat on the steering group that planned all elements of the event such naming it, identifying virtual venue, recruitment, planning for facilitation and many other elements that go into an event like this.
How the process was inclusive and accessible
Jigsaw and its partners advertised the event widely throughout their national networks to ensure as diverse a range of young people had the opportunity to attend.
Young people were also used in advertisement videos to support peers in attending.
Given Covid, this work was hampered by the virtual nature of the event.
How we gave young people a voice in decisions
Things we considered
What we did
How we informed young people about the topics on which we wanted their views
A video, developed by Dr Aileen O’Reilly, Research Manager in Jigsaw, provided an overview of some of the key findings from the My World Survey 2, particularly as they relate to the contexts of young people’s lives – where they live, learn, work and play.
It was made clear to young people that the breakout sessions would focus on these four areas (1) live (2) learn (3) work and (4) play.
How we made sure they knew their views would be taken seriously
How we informed them about level of influence they could have on decision-making
There was a very honest and collaborative approach taken from the outset.
Given this was a new initiative there was no over promising of impact or influence as it was unknown and ultimately young people would inform the next steps.
The methods we used to get their views
All sessions were co-facilitated by young people as young people often feel more comfortable sharing with a peer rather than an adult.
Visual minutes (Graphic Recording or Scribing) were used to represent the calls to action.
Graphic harvesting (also known as Graphic Recording, Graphic Facilitation or Scribing) can be used online, or in person. The graphic harvester illustrated the issues discussed at Youth Talk: We Listen in real-time. This approach supported the young people to stay connected throughout the event.
How we made sure they could identify topics they wanted to discuss
In the breakout sessions, young people were facilitated to identify the key action areas.
The youth facilitators made a list of actions to be fed back to the main event.
Please describe the topics and issues they raised
The young people identified four areas of focus that related to the contexts of young people’s lives – where they live, learn, work and play.
More fair, accessible and clear information for young people about mental health, Covid-19 and other issues from the HSE, Department of Education and other bodies.
More early intervention “mental health check-ups” for young people before problems become really pronounced.
Acknowledge the role of young people in keeping the country going during Covid-19, and not just highlight those who have not been adhering to restrictions.
Equality of treatment –young people should not be treated as “less than” because of their age and should receive equal pay for equal work, regardless of being under or over 18.
Mental health is health – taking a sick day for mental health should be treated the same as taking sick leave for a physical health issue.
More facilities for young people beyond sport i.e. music, drama, art groups and youth centres
Systems for connecting like-minded people e.g. an online forum where people with different interests can interact and connect
A need to address toxic masculinity
A need to include more minority voices in addressing mental health.
External counselling services should be available in schools and colleges to give young people access to independent assistance about issues such as what to do after school, career advice etc.
There’s a need for more comprehensive ‘change of mind’ support in colleges and reform of how students access third-level, including non-CAO routes
Young people need to be made aware of different services in the college, whether counselling or student’s union welfare etc.
A need for more mental health training for teachers and other educators – both 2nd and 3rd level on how to treat students and support mental health
Different types of learning formats should be used– recorded lectures, different learning styles and support for students who missed out on learning due to Covid-19, lack of broadband or suitable learning space etc.
Compulsory mental health and wellbeing classes in schools and an emphasis on PE as a way of improving mental health.
How we made sure that there was an audience (decision-makers) for young people’s views
Things we considered
What we did
How we developed a report or record of the young people’s view
We used the graphic harvest as the main way of recording young people’s views.
The views captured through the graphic harvesting were compiled into a written report – see full report here.
Notes were taken in each breakout room to document young people’s views, which were also included in the written report
How we checked back with them that their views were accurately represented
We conducted evaluations using the rights-based child and youth feedback forms from the National Participation Framework.
How we involved the decision-makers who are responsible for influencing change (other than yourself)
Decision-makers shared the space with young people and so were hearing directly from young people in real-time.
At what point we involved decision makers other than yourself in the process
Key decision makers such as HSE health and wellbeing were partners in this initiative from the start, but it was at the main event that we brought in other key decision makers and stakeholders.
How we and other decision-makers showed our commitment to listening to, and acting on young people’s views
How we supported young people to play a role in communicating their own views to decision-makers
Young people MC’d and facilitated the breakout rooms and so were communicating the views of the young people present throughout.
How young people were given updates at key points in the development of the plan
Things we considered
What we did
How we informed young people about the topics on which we wanted their views
Following the “Youth Talk, We Listen” event, a smaller collaborative group was formed including young people with the aim of progressing the action areas in Live, Learn, Work and Play.
Feedback to this group took the form of in-person meetings.
At later stages, we used Slack (a messaging programme) to share updates and to allow an ongoing dialogue between young people in the collaborative group and decision-makers.
How their views were acted on by the appropriate decision-makers (what happened to their views)
The collaborative group worked across 2021 to explore the actions identified by young people at the event.
The young people on the collaborative group decided to ask the HSE to include an action in the Mental Health Promotion Plan stating that “the HSE will create opportunities to ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard in the development of mental health and wellbeing initiatives”.
This action will be led by statutory and non-statutory agencies and will ensure young people’s voices are central, to a host of projects across the lifetime of this plan 2022 – 27.
Whether we continually checked back with children and young people about the ways you used their views with decision-makers (if possible or appropriate)
Young people from the collaborative group co-chaired the meetings and were present at every meeting.
Feedback was provided on a continuous basis on actions related to their voice and opinions, so they understood at all stages what was happening to their views.
How they were given full and age-appropriate feedback explaining how their views were used (or not) and the reasons for decisions taken
All participants that had registered for the original Youth Talk, We Listen event received the report developed which identified the actions, along with the graphic harvester illustrations
Further to this they received an update on the next steps and were offered them to join the collaborative that was being created.
A further email was sent sharing the final outcome to all original participants with regards to the action in the HSE Mental Health Promotion Plan.
How we enabled them to evaluate the process throughout
The Youth Talk We Listen event itself was not evaluated.
Regular evaluations were done with the young people in the collaborative group.
What young people said in the evaluation
Below are some quotes from the evaluations by the young people in the collaborative group:
“It was difficult to get everyone’s opinion shared in such a short time frame”
“Might have been nicer to have slightly longer to really talk about stuff!”
This feedback was taken into account and greater time was afforded to break out room discussion at later meetings.
Near the end of the collaborative group process and closing of the project one young person noted: “It was an honour to be part of the collaborative, and I look forward to what we decide to organise going forward”, in reference to the plans within the HSE Mental Health Promotion Plan.
What changes were made because of children/young people giving their views?
The key effect or outcome was getting a clear action, with named led agencies, within the HSE Mental Health Promotion Plan 2022 – 27, which notes that the HSE along with partners will “create opportunities to ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard in the development of mental health and wellbeing initiatives”. We aim for this to result in a greater impact on young people around Youth Mental Health Promotion across that five-year period.
The learning for our organisation
The key learning for our organisation from the process and outcome of involving young people in this project
There was a real learning curve throughout the process. The initial couple of large online events were really creative, dynamic and energised spaces where young people could share their voice in an open forum with key decision-makers. We quickly developed key action areas and moved to a smaller collaborative group.
This collaborative group of young people and decision-makers began to come across challenges in moving the actions forward for various reasons self-identified by the group (1) not being able to meet face to face (2) consistency of stakeholder engagement (3) identifying projects and programmes.
The key learning for the group was mostly around not having to spend large amounts of time considering new programmes or initiatives. Young people could have more impact if a space was created where they could be heard on projects/programmes that are happening, in review or that might be in the planning phase. The group felt that when they were looking for solutions there were lots of answers or solutions already in existence, but young people were not aware of them or they were not youth-friendly resources, which is an issue. So, in creating a space in the future were decision-makers who are starting out on projects or look looking to review pieces can come to get input from young people will hopefully have an instant impact on real-world projects.
Looking back, how did the final outcome compare with our initial assumptions and those of other decision-makers involved in the process?
The final outcome was not the outcome the group set out to achieve, which is often the case in new initiatives where goals are fluid and need to be given the nature of the work. Ultimately the process led to a better hopefully a more impactful outcome, which only time will tell.
What worked well?
Knowing when to change the direction of the group and reassess what success looked like
The mixture of young people and decision-makers within the space
The collaborative nature of the work.
Setting values for the collaboration from early on
Having young people plan and co-chair groups and meetings
Using creative communications like Slack
Using creative pieces like graphic harvesting
Gaining feedback from young people using the Lundy model so we could shift and change approach when/if needed
If we were doing it again, is there anything we would do differently?
We would have really liked to have had more in-person sessions, which just was not possible at the time
Reduce the length of the second element “the collaborative” so keep time frames tighter in order to retain energy.
Having the right decision makers is critical to work like this so an increased focus on stakeholder retention and support. We hope this is resolved in the future by having decision-makers “pitch” to come into the space we create to consult with young people.