The Heart of the Matter: Mental Health and Children and Young People

Posted on August 19th, by Rebeka in Heart of the Matter, Mental Health. No Comments

In November 2018, new figures were released by NHS Digital detailing the number of children and young people in the UK with mental health issues. 1 in 9 children aged 5 – 15 are now reported as having a ‘mental health disorder’ (classified by the NHS as emotional, behavioural, hyperactive or other), a rise from 1 in 10 children in 2004. When young people up to age 19 are included (so all children aged 5 – 19), as many as 1 in 8 children have been identified as having at least one mental health disorder. More information can be found on the Mental Health Foundation’s website.

So what is the heart of the matter?

The statistics show, on a very basic level, that young people’s mental health is an increasing concern. Music can often be a good way to connect with young people in a way that feels familiar and comfortable to them. It can be a relaxing distraction, or may encourage them to talk about themselves and their concerns, allowing trained staff to better provide support for them going forwards.

The Heart of the Matter for us this month is to:

  • – make this important work happen in the form of a more specifically targeted project
  • – make sure we consolidate our learning and experiences with mental health issues across all of our current and future projects
  • – share important findings from our projects with the arts sector as a whole

Yorkshire Youth & Music facilitators are no strangers to working with young people who need some form of support with their mental health. In our projects in Youth Justice settings, we encounter young people experiencing a range of mental health issues. Using the skills and knowledge we learned with these young people, it seemed like a logical next step to create a project that specifically targets mental health problems in childhood and adolescence. We chose to do this via the services that are offered to them through the NHS: specifically CAMHS (or Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services), a nationwide service.

In a pilot project in 2018, we worked alongside CAMHS in Sheffield to provide music based sessions for children and young people accessing their services across the summer holidays. The sessions were a success, with NHS staff reporting that they had seen a marked improvement in attendee engagement levels: an increased willingness to join in, and interact with musicians and their peers, even over such a short engagement period.

Because the results were so positive, and because we have also had extensive experience of supporting children with mental health issues in our other projects, we decided to develop the pilot into a fully-rounded project: we plan to continue sessions in Sheffield and brand new sessions will be organised to engage children in North Yorkshire. We have successfully applied for Youth Music funding to deliver the project and we will let you know the project’s outcomes later this year.

In the spirit of sharing our findings using music to engage young people struggling with their mental health, our Director, Gail Dudson, spoke at the Young People, Mental Health and the Arts conference at the University of Leeds in June, detailing our work with young people in Youth Justice settings, with a focus on how music could help to tackle their issues.

If you would like more information about our work with young people in challenging circumstances, please feel free to contact us.

YY&M creates music education projects for children and young people in a variety of complex and severely challenging circumstances. In order to provide meaningful musical experiences for these young people, we make decisions that get to the heart of both their needs and what makes a good musical project. We want to share the hows and whys with YOU, our readers, in a new feature on our website (and our bulletin) called ‘Heart of the Matter‘. Each month over the course of 2019, we will reveal how each of our projects get to the real heart of what music education means to us.

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