We wanted support to develop four key areas of work: 1. Create a user collective to help our community to become empowered – one where “experts by experience” feel that they have a voice and actively work with our organisation to develop interventions that work to address the needs of the widening community affected by poor mental health, emotional distress, loss and bereavement. 2. Improve the governance of our organisation and expand the skillset of our existing board to shape, lead and safeguard FME through its next steps of development. 3. Diversify our income through corporate sponsorship. 4. Develop our networks within the sector, reaching out to those that can support us and those we can support.
Over the course of the Elevate Programme we have been able to recruit a youth advisory group/Teen Mental Health Leadership Team involving 17 young people who meet weekly. They are establishing their own governance and are involved in funding applications, service design and service leadership. We have allocated a staff member to this group for 3-days per week to help it become established. We have achieved funding with the group to create and design child bereavement support and suicide prevention service content. As part of our governance e.g. safeguarding, first aid etc we have included the young people in all of the staff training and we have partnered with 4 local groups to offer this for free locally. We are doing the same with other compulsory training. We now have a collaboration where parents and young children access a maternal mental health social connection programme every week based in the FME HeartSpace. We have connected with 10 organisations and many collaborations are taking place (Links to Pink, ASD Teens, Antrim School of Music, Rathenraw Youth Club, Antrim Grammar, ParkHall Integrated, Flare team)
For our organisation, it helped us frame strategic thinking and operational planning. It strengthens networks and connections. It encourages shared working. It reminds organisations to work laterally as well as literally for common goals. The formation of the Youth Advisory / Teen Mental Health Leadership group has made a huge difference to the direction and types of interventions we are now offering and are building for the future. These are young people impacted by health inequalities who have experienced bereavement and emotional distress and most of them have had professional support in the past. Almost all of them have been FME service users at one point too.
Our mentors Supporting Communities were great contacts and showed care and enthusiasm. They have educated us on how the housing sector works and as a result we have gained a better understanding of opportunities for collaboration that exist within this sector. We have also made connections with other mentees in our group to establish longer term working relationships; The Parents Room needed a local space which we have since been able to provide for a weekly parenting social connection programme.
The training reminded us of the importance of holding health inequalities to the forefront of service design and provision. It was a reminder of the interconnectedness of all issues and the need for interconnectedness of solutions. Very important in mental health to be including poverty, loneliness, education etc. it also helped to refresh our learning on how to involve service users more holistically throughout the organisation, engage a wider range of service users within the organisation and the level or resources required to successfully engage service users meaningfully.
The Youth Advisory / Teen Mental Health Leadership group have been the made a huge difference tour work. They are creating awards for service users, podcasts, building websites, writing funding applications, attending training, leading sessions etc. Our mentor is also connecting us in with local networks in the months ahead – this is exciting for us. We will continue to work with Supporting Communities to engage more with the Housing sector and explore the need for new space, funding and collaboration around shared needs, goals, and resources.
"This is the most meaningful mindset reprogramme around. Delivered in a kind and encouraging manner. It is strategically and operationally challenging to implement what you will learn, but it will make a huge and significant difference to the relevance and impact of your service. As the Mandalorian would say “This is the way”.
Aine Wallace, Founding CEO, Fresh Minds Education (FME)