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New programme aiming to bridge rural youth ‘disconnection’ welcomed by Mental Health Network

New programme aiming to bridge rural youth ‘disconnection’ welcomed by Mental Health Network

24th May 2024

NHS Research Scotland (NRS) Mental Health Network has welcomed a new project promoting mental well-being for young people through heightened engagement with nature and green spaces

The 'Healthy Young Minds' initiative from NHS Highland’s Children and Adolescent Mental Health service aims to co-produce an early intervention programme with high school students.

The project has been undertaken in partnership with The University of South Wales (USW) which recently secured £149,980 funding from the Medical Research Council to help conduct it.

Led by Dr Nick Barnes, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist of NHS Highland, and Dr Sarah Bradley, Senior Fellow at USW, the programme will be co-produced with students from five secondary schools in the Highlands to promote mental well-being, increase resilience, and reduce anxiety.

The outcomes will not only contribute to academic understanding but also inform service planning and delivery, benefiting rural communities nationally.

Dr Barnes said: “We are hugely excited to be part of this study, exploring how nature and access to green spaces can impact on the mental health and wellbeing of young people in rural settings.

“Building on the known evidence that this approach to support children and young people can have a significant impact on health inequalities, we really welcome having the opportunity to work alongside young people to determine what is important to them when co-designing and coproducing nature-based interventions in accessible green spaces.”

Catherine Deith, Network Manager of NHS Research Scotland Mental Health, said: “We believe it is important to give our full support to initiatives like this one which we consider to be a very welcome development.

“Young people are often vulnerable to poor mental health with the ripple effects of COVID-19 still being felt by many.

“It can be a particular issue in Scotland’s rural areas, where young people sometimes feel a significant disconnection from society and the wider world. That sense of isolation is tough to overcome during a period of life when multiple anxieties can not only become overwhelming, but challenges in accessing support can also be experienced due to location, further exacerbating existing health inequalities.

“'Healthy Young Minds' aims to bridge that gap and empower students through nature-based workshops that underline young people’s positive involvement through co-production which fully engages them in the design process so that they can take a strong sense of ownership and have their voices heard. The aim will then be to reproduce its learnings through an intervention framework, while building confident young people as part of an open, honest approach.”

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