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19 March 2021

Mental health experts team up with young people to help their peers keep cool during the pandemic

Leading mental health clinicians and researchers are working with young people to produce three short films and a social media campaign to help young people cope with the stress and emotional impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition a dedicated web space will offer tips so they can learn about and cope with strong emotions. The 75-second films explore how young people experience negative emotions and how they can overcome them.

Graphics from the Keep Cool project

The first film, on anxiety, is launched today by Principal Investigator Professor Andrea Danese and research assistant Meg Kiseleva from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at the annual Association of Child & Adolescent Mental Health (ACAMH) conference; films on sadness and anger will follow in May and early summer.

The KeepCool series, which is aimed at people aged 14-24, has been shaped by young people from the McPin Foundation’s Young People’s Network. They have been working with experts in child and adolescent mental health and leading creative production and social media companies. KeepCool focuses on basic emotions rather than mental health conditions. The films will help address the stigma around mental health and encourage young people to think about how they can manage their own negative emotions.

Over the last year young people have been robbed of the support that friends provide. They have also lost out on many of the rites of passage that generations have taken for granted – such as bidding farewell to school, attending festivals, and leaving home.

Principal Investigator Professor Andrea Danese from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London

Professor Danese, who is also a Consultant Psychiatrist, leads the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust’s (SLaM) CAMHS Trauma, Anxiety, and Depression Clinic, adds: “Young people have lost the stability of education, battled unfair exam grades and entered a bleak jobs market. Many will also have lost older relatives to Covid-19. We hope that these films will help them overcome the anxiety, sadness and anger that are understandable responses to such adversity. The films also have broad messages on emotions that will remain relevant even once the Covid-19 emergency is over.”

The project is funded by UK Research and Innovation and the IoPPN has worked with SLaM, the McPin Foundation, the production company TOAD and social media experts Passion Digital. Young people co-produced the material through workshops and active engagement in content production and promoting the films.

Ashlea, a McPin Young People’s Network member, says: “Working on the KeepCool Project has been a really wonderful experience. The team at McPin facilitated an open and comfortable space which allowed me to be honest in sharing my mental health experiences. Our personal experiences have been used to directly shape the project and film. It has been great to work alongside young people with a range of ages and experiences in the workshops. Those doing their A Levels have very different insights to those finishing their PHDs for example! I very much hope that the finished videos will be a space to validate young people who have suffered during the pandemic, but also provide some useful tools for managing times of high stress.”

The KeepCool project has been a great opportunity to collaborate with young people to develop the video series. We have had many discussions with the young people, content designers, clinicians and academics to strengthen the format and messaging as much as possible. I hope the videos will be helpful to young people out there who are struggling with new, or more intense, feelings and emotions during the pandemic, and beyond.

Dr Dan Robotham, Deputy Research Director at McPin

Professor Danese concludes: “KeepCool is not about erasing emotions. It is about learning to experience them fully without being overwhelmed by them. We cannot just click our fingers and magically change how we feel. However, we can cope with emotions by working on the way we think and behave.”

SLaM, King’s College London, the Maudsley Charity and other partners are developing a specialist child and adolescent mental health centre which will open in 2023. Many of SLaM’s clinicians will provide treatment for young people from the Pears Maudsley Centre for Children and Young People while working alongside Europe’s largest team of child and adolescent mental health researchers.

Find out more about the KeepCool project:


For further information please contact Louise Pratt, Head of Communications, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London

Tel: +44 7850 919020

In this story

Andrea Danese

Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry