Dr Andrew Mayers

Mental health and young people

I am passionate about young people's mental health. I know a lot of great people doing some wonderful work in this area. However, we need much more investment in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and better prevention, education and support. Early intervention is the key.

Education and awareness

It is for this very reason that I am looking at ways in which I can take education and support into schools, working in partnership with Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, local authorities, and charities. Education will focus on raising awareness among young people (and about how to look after themselves and their friends); support will look at providing schools with 'tool kits' to deal with mental health problems.

In June 2015, it was my honour to link up with Fixers, an organisation devoted to young people who 'use their past to fix the future'. There are local Fixers groups all over the UK. In their own words, "Fixers choose the issue they want to fix and, using the skills of a team of creative experts, they work out how to make sure their message is heard by the right people, whether that’s through a unique film, a leaflet or poster campaign, a website, an event or workshop".  I was invited to work with the Winchester hub to contribute to a project that was developed by 'Cerys', a young lady from Bournemouth with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Cerys made a documentary about young people's mental health. Fixers then came to Bournemouth University to talk to me and my psychology students about the film. This was made into a feature that was shown on ITV Meridian News on June 4th 2015. You can see the film here.

Child sexual abuse (and grooming)

A history of being sexually abused as a child is one of the biggest predictors for developing mental illness later in life (from childhood, through adolescence , and into adult life). Young people who have been abused are much more likely to self-harm, experience emotional and behavioural problems, and have significant problems with inter-personal relationships. Many groups seek to tackle the abuse, but few deal with the legacy of sexual abuse. I act as Chair of Trustees for Acts Fast, a Bournemouth-based charity, that supports the protective parent of the abused child. All too often, when the abuse has been 'dealt with' by the legal system and social services (perhaps with perpetrator imprisoned), the books are effectively closed. The child and family often get no further support. Acts Fast seek to fill that gap.

Acts Fast aims include:

  • Relieve the distress of the non-abusive families, parents, carers and children who have been affected by sexual abuse.
  • Help shorten the road to recovery by preventing long-term damage to the holistic well-being of the individuals themselves and collectively within their family unit.
  • Help and empower parents, carers and families within Dorset whose child has been sexually abused.

My role is to guide Acts Fast on mental health awareness, ensure that support workers are appropriately safeguarded, mentored, and clinically supervised, and to provide support on publicity and public relations. I will also be looking at ways we can educate all those who work with children to recognise signs of abuse and grooming.

Research

I am working on a series of projects focusing on child and family mental health. Together with education professionals, mental health service providers and local charities, we are looking at how we can evaluate, and improve upon, existing work in Dorset. Our partners include Bournemouth Borough Council, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), and Barnardo's.

In one project, we are looking at ways to tackle behavioural, emotional and social difficulties in young people. I am working with Future Roots (who operate a care farm project in north Dorset) where young people with a range of challenging behaviours,are referred. This work is being conducted through a 3-year PhD project.

 

e-mail: amayers@bournemouth.ac.uk

Twitter: @DrAndyMayers