A group of young people playing basketball with an older Black man. The group of young people includes: one white young man, one white non-binary teenager and one Black young woman.

What we have learned about how we can help trusted adults

  • 4 min read
  • 30 April 2024

Author: YoungMinds community support team

A white non-binary teenager laughing with an older Black woman in a professional setting.

For many years, YoungMinds has been supporting adults to help young people navigate mental health challenges. Most recently we’ve focussed on the essential role that adults in local communities play. From offering resources on emotional wellness, to practical guides and personal insights, we have lots of information for those at the frontline of local clubs and youth organisations. Alongside this, our training sessions and webinars provide a place for professionals and volunteers to gain knowledge and share experiences in a supportive environment.

The feedback we’ve had shows the value of these services for improving an adult’s confidence when it comes to supporting young people with their mental health. But we have considered whether there is more that we can do. That’s why, in 2023, we embarked on a ‘discovery project’ to find out more about young people’s experiences of reaching out for mental health support, to help us find the adults they turn to and understand what we can do to support them further.

Putting the experiences of young people at the heart of this work, our Youth Advisors helped us co-design and co-deliver interviews with young people who had been supported by a trusted adult at a time of change or challenge in their lives. Some of the people they spoke about were not who we would ‘typically’ consider when we think about trusted adults. The interviews gave us brilliant insights into who young people view as trusted figures in their lives, how they help and what difference they can make to their mental health.

We heard powerful stories and statements:

My trusted adult doesn't always realise just how much their support helps me. They give me hope and reassurance that there is a way out of my struggles.
They see me as a whole person, not just my mental health.
I know they are available and willing to talk about difficult topics.

These reflections led us to connect directly with adults in community youth organisations to understand their perspectives and challenges better. These discussions revealed several key insights:

  • Youth workers play an integral role in their communities, and this isn’t always recognised (particularly in relation to the mental health support they provide).

  • Supporting a young person with their mental health can bring up feelings and emotional trauma for adults if they have had similar experiences in the past, and this can be a lot to deal with.

  • There can be uncertainty about what local mental health services exist, and where is most appropriate to signpost a young person to.

With all of the information we had, we prioritised three needs that required addressing:

A young Black woman talking about something serious with an older Black woman in the park.
  1. We need to keep raising awareness and recognition of the importance of trusted adults and the impact they have on a young person’s life.
  2. Organisations need to be confident in the value and quality of the mental health support they are already providing and be able to share it with others.
  3. That adults should not feel too responsible in supporting young people who have faced similar experiences, so they can recognise their own boundaries and not burn out.

So what next?

We are now exploring several ideas and options to develop and test initiatives that could help adults who are working with young people in the community.

These range from developing more training led by young people, running a campaign that recognises the strong impact of trusted adults, and working directly with grassroots organisations to support them to provide the best mental health support possible.

We’re excited for where this work will take us.

One thing remains very clear – that the impact of a trusted adult in a young person’s life is immeasurable. We are committed to ensuring these adults have the right tools to effectively support the youth, recognising that their role is not just helpful but essential.

To find out more information about this work, please contact community@youngminds.org.uk.

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