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Your Voice Matters: Empowering Young Minds in Mental Health Research

Carys Heron and Richard Barlow

Youth Mental Health Prevention Advisory Group members

08 February 2024

Carys Heron and Richard Barlow are members of the Youth Mental Health Prevention Advisory Group, which consists of seven young people with direct or indirect experience of mental health difficulties. The group supports Josefien Breedvelt, a Prudence Trust Research Fellow based at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, in her work looking at how to prevent depression and anxiety in children and young people. Carys and Richard detail their experiences of involving young people in mental health research and the importance of centring young people’s voices in research.

Children's Mental Health Week, themed "Your Voice Matters," serves as a vital call to empower young minds in the sphere of mental health.

The theme "Your Voice Matters" resonates profoundly with us as it emphasises that every young person's perspective is not only valid but crucial. Youth involvement embodies the ethos that young individuals are active contributors, shaping the discourse around mental well-being.

In our experience, mental health was an unspoken topic during our formative years, with many unknowns. Seldom addressed in schools, we received little information or explanation. The lack of comprehensive understanding left us grappling with challenges, thinking that we were alone in our experience. Improving our understanding of how to address and prevent the mental health challenges young people face is a crucial next step, where young people’s voices can make a difference.

We therefore welcome Children's Mental Health Week, as it prompts reflection on the challenges young people face, highlighting the power of our voices to instigate change. It goes beyond acknowledgement; it's recognition that personal narratives significantly contribute to a broader understanding of mental health. Beyond awareness, we see this week as a call for action for centring young people in mental health research.

To advance science on how to prevent mental ill health, it’s crucial we involve young people.

Adolescence and young adulthood are marked periods of change, and young people can provide a unique perspective of what it means to go through this now. We can share what it means growing up now, including the rapid emotional, physical, and social changes that take place. This experience provides nuance and balance to scientific studies that directly impact well-being issues. For example, our involvement in the Prudence Trust Fellowship research allows us to shape and refine the scope of the work on prevention in mental health from start to finish, with set moments of discussion. Potential solutions and outcomes are therefore shaped throughout the research with our views, perspectives, and challenges in mind.

The group discussions that we are a part of also highlight shared experiences, emphasising that no one is alone. These groups go beyond formalities, becoming dynamic communities where diverse mental health stories are openly discussed. We very much value that each member brings a unique perspective, and collectively we work towards improving the mental health landscape.

It is important to highlight that involvement also plays a key role in breaking down traditional hierarchies of power and gives us a central voice in the future of mental health research. We therefore encourage all researchers to create spaces where young people’s opinions and experiences are central, and where it is clear how our contributions are integral to the research process.

Ultimately, we see youth involvement in research as an investment in the future. Understanding factors influencing current well-being allows researchers to contribute to interventions shaping the mental health landscape for the next generation.

CMHW Youth Advisor Group

Conclusion: Amplifying Voices for a Brighter Future

As Children's Mental Health Week unfolds, let's collectively amplify young voices. "Your Voice Matters" is a call to action, an investment in a brighter, more empathetic future. Youth involvement in mental health research isn't just an initiative; it's a movement recognising the potential of young voices to reshape the narrative around mental well-being.

This week, let's celebrate the diversity of young people’s experiences, break down stigma, and ensure every young person feels heard, understood, and supported. Indeed, our voices matter, holding the power to drive positive change in the realm of mental health.


Further information

The Prudence Trust:


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Josefien Breedvelt

Josefien Breedvelt

Prudence Trust Research Fellow

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