Forward Thinking Birmingham (FTB), the city’s unique mental health service, is celebrating five years of putting young people at the heart of developing their care.
The service, which supports children, young people and young adults up to the age of 25, is one of the few true global 0-25 mental health services, putting young people at the heart of developing their care.
Set up in 2016 as a mental health partnership working together with Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, The Children’s Society and the Priory Group, FTB set out their vision to make Birmingham the first city where mental health problems are not a barrier to the achievement of dreams and fulfilment of potential.
Over the last five years, it’s put young people at the heart of developing services and new approaches, many of which have been adopted across the country.
FTB’s Early Help offer is one example of this. Teams have worked collaboratively to deliver a mental health and wellbeing agenda for children and young people across the city on projects such as #YouveBeenMissed. The proactive multi-agency project anticipated the effects that COVID-19 and not being in school would have on the mental health of pupils and students. Resources were developed in partnership, establishing a shared language and framework, particularly around the management of Emotionally Base School Avoidance.
The STICK (Screening, Training, Intervention, Consultation and Knowledge) team led the way in making resources accessible remotely, delivering webinars to strengthen the adults around the child and developing YouTube videos for young people. This campaign struck a balance of normalising the anxiety-provoking experience of a pandemic whilst offering practical ways to talk about and manage this. To find out more visit: bwc.nhs.uk/youve-been-missed
Elaine Kirwan, Deputy Chief Nurse for Mental Health Services, said: “We had no idea that in 5 years we would have achieved this much together. At the heart of Forward Thinking Birmingham are the children and young people, our journey over the past five years has evolved as we work with our people, partners and young people to help shape services to deliver compassionate mental health care and emotional well-being. Our People working in Mental Health Service is what makes Forward Thinking Birmingham a success and we couldn’t have done this without there dedication, compassion and hard work.
“Five years on, we have done amazing things together, we have supported improved policy 0-25 is part of the Mental Health Long Term Plan, we have improved the understanding of Youth Mental Health as a speciality of early intervention practice, Our whole person and system approach has led to many examples of innovative practice to meet the changing needs of our young people.
“Young people are at the heart of everything we do, I have been privileged to work with experts by experience our Think4Brum advisory group has made a significant contribution to shaping their mental healthcare.”
While many achievements have been made on FTB’s journey, Think4Brum has helped shape how it supports young people through their work, more recently through its new Wellbeing Passport.
The passports, which are funded by Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity and produced in-house by our Clinical Photography and Design team, have been designed to give service users ownership over their own mental and physical health journey.
The aim of the Wellbeing Passport is to get the service user and health professional on the same page and improve communication. Their hope is that the wellbeing passport will make the experience easier for service users who will no longer need to repeat their mental or physical health journey every time they see a new health professional. These bespoke journals are designed to empower patients to manage their own health and wellbeing.
Catherine, Think4Brum member explained her personal reason for the importance of the Wellbeing Passport. She said “While trying to get help for my mental ill-health I got really good at being able to talk about my journey because I was having to repeat it so often to so many people. I became numb and disconnected to what I had been through and it has taken me a long time to feel my feeling again.
“My hope is that this Wellbeing Passport will give people a sense of ownership over their mental health journey and allow them to feel and process their feelings, which in turn will make the job of the professionals much easier.
“Often, when friends of mine have been given or started seeing a new therapist, they have said that their mental health has worsened because all of the information they gave to one professional they often had to repeat. There was no way of telling them what they had been through without speaking about it, which was exhausting and traumatising. The Wellbeing Passport allows the service user to have some control over their journey and avoids these things from happening. I am really proud of everyone who has worked on it and the feedback so far has been so positive.”
Zaynab, Co-Chair of Think4Brum said: "The creation of the Health Passport was youth-led and driven by real lived experience. Young people everywhere has had the consistent problem of having to relive their trauma every time a health professional asks for their story.
"This health passport means young people are taking charge of their own care and feeling empowered enough to own their recovery. It was made for young people, by young people. There is nothing more profound than that."
Heather, Chair of Think4Brum added: "Creating the well-being passport was a rollercoaster but I am so grateful to have been doing it with people who saw the vital value of this project. All the different teams we worked with that also saw the importance of our spur-of-the-moment idea and now we have a product that could really help a young persons journey, enabling autonomy and empowerment.
"I know the group will agree when I say this was a project that came from our hearts and lived experience was central all the way through. We hope that future developments can take a note from the power of young peoples voices, ideas and work that made this project what it is."
Alex Borg, Director of Mental Health Services said: “As we look to the future we will continue to build on our hard work and dedication from our teams to provide a joined-up approach to support our children and young people across Birmingham.
“Young people will always shape our service, which is why our latest initiative is to introduce an innovative new model of care, bringing on board a number Peer Support Workers, who will be funded by Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity as part of its Fight For All The Feels youth mental health fundraising campaign.
“The Peer Support Workers will be aged between 16 and 24-years-old and from the same communities and backgrounds of the people they will support. Crucially they will all have their own lived experiences of mental illness, therefore, not only will they be able to help young people with their medical recovery, they will aid them with their personal recovery too.”
For more information about Forward Thinking Birmingham visit forwardthinkingbirmingham.org.uk
To learn more about the Fight for All the Feels website visit fightforallthefeels.org