A NEW partnership has been launched between students and a GP surgery in Wotton in hopes of improving young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Year 12 pupils from Katharine Lady Berkeley’s have formed a Youth Patient Participation Group (YPPG) at Chipping Surgery. 

The existing Patient Participation Group (PPG) at the surgery approached students to ensure that young people's voices were heard.

A PPG links together patients, carers and GP practice staff who meet to discuss practice issues and patient experience to help improve services.

Lorraine Hollingworth, practice manager at Chipping Surgery said: “We reached out to the school asking if young people wanted to be involved with the PPG, thinking it might appeal to students who wanted to study medicine.

“We weren’t expecting responses so we were very surprised and pleased when we ended up with three young people coming to a PPG meeting.”

The youth patient group looked at the impact of social media on young people’s awareness and understanding of mental health issues. 

The group produced a report that included survey responses from 48 peers in their year group. 

It revealed that 38 per cent would use social media to read about mental health support.

Key themes also emerged such as the use of social media to self-diagnose mental health concerns, access to trusted information and ongoing stigma around mental health.

Ms Hollingworth added: “We do feel it’s ground-breaking as it’s something for young people, by young people and we want to keep the dialogue going.

“This generation is less likely to read leaflets so we need to look at other ways to engage and get the message out.”

Gazette Series: NHS Gloucestershire

Noah Sharman, a student involved with the project said: “It is really valuable to be able to have a voice in terms of young people’s mental health rather than having things imposed by others.

“It is really worrying that people of our age seek support from sources that are neither correct nor reliable. 

“I really hope that the work we have done will help people of our age seek support from those qualified and equipped to support them.

“It’s really exciting to see things beginning to happen.”

Other findings from the report included that:

  • 68 per cent of responders felt they were unaware of the full range of support available to them for mental health
  • 41 per cent felt they would be unlikely to talk to their GP if they had a mental health concern

Young people have made suggestions including:

  • Make accessing help anonymous
  • Running talks or open days in schools about the range of local support available
  • Using social media more effectively to spread awareness
  • Educating adults/parents on how to have compassionate discussions with young people who are experiencing mental health difficulties

Beth Gibbons programme manager for Children’s Mental Health & Maternity at NHS Gloucestershire said: “We are pleased to take these findings forward to inform service improvements and look forward to working with the YPPG to mobilise some of the recommendations they have made.

“We’re really grateful for their hard work and commitment to their research report and the school and surgery coming together is a great example of joint working between education and health.”

On Your Mind Glos is a mental health support finder. You can access it via onyourmindglos.nhs.uk or 07984 404388. Answers are anonymous and confidential.