July 13, 2022
Sophie shares how young people’s voices are heard and engaged throughout the research process as a result of being part of a Young Person’s Advisory Group (YPAG).
A little bit about me: I am 19, currently studying mental health nursing at the University of Birmingham. I would love to travel with nursing and experience how mental health treatment differs in other countries. I have particularly enjoyed the work I have been involved in with a homeless charity in Birmingham and a placement I had in a community mental health centre. Some random facts about me: I love swimming, fajitas, and I have six chickens.
I have been involved in the Young Person’s Advisory Group (YPAG) for 4 years, taking part in various projects advising and co-producing with researchers. I have learnt a lot about research and have been surprised how interesting this is. I would like to learn even more about the research process and perhaps go into a research job in the future.
I am already taking a leadership role in involving and supporting young people in YPAG, currently helping with recruiting new members, and looking forward to teaching them the skills needed for YPAG. For one recent advisory project, we met with some of the YPAG and researchers to discuss the use anti-depressants in adolescents. We discussed our initial thoughts and feelings on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Then, the researchers showed us a presentation on how anti-depressants work and explained their project. I learnt a lot of new information and found the statistics particularly interesting. I felt as though the researchers really listened and valued our opinions on the use of SSRIs.
I am also co-producing our engagement programme with the researchers designing and developing content for a new website and Instagram page for YPAG. I have briefed the designer and made suggestions on what would make a young person be attracted to a website and how it can be made more appealing.
Young people and researchers work together in a Young Person’s Advisory Group to achieve the best possible research and findings. I guess it makes sense - if you are undertaking research about young people and mental health, you really need to involve the people you are researching.
The co-production process allows researchers and young people to share views, opinions, and beliefs on a wide range of mental health related topics. It is a positive forum where everyone’s perspectives are heard, and all views are listened to – without judgement. Because of this it can really increase your self-confidence to talk in front of a large group. It also helps you think about your views and hear different perspectives.
Through working with researchers, you learn from their experience for example ethics protocols, and the research processes related to mental health. I imagine co-production can be motivating for the researchers as they can pass on their skills and knowledge to young people too. They hear the direct views of the young people, and they get immediate feedback which they can use in their work. Putting young people’s perspectives into the topics they are researching increases the validity of their work.
Often young people want to be heard, want changes, and want an increased awareness of their needs - this is an ideal opportunity for this to happen. It’s great when the researchers want this also - a perfect combination. It allows young people and researchers to come together to inform research about what young people need. YPAG ensures that young people’s voices are heard and engaged throughout the research process.
Personally, through working with researchers I have learnt so much about their role. I feel more confident in expressing my opinion and to express my views and ideas to others and I have noticed that I speak up more and ask more questions in my university courses too. I really feel like I have been heard and that my opinions and views are making a change and that my ideas may influence decisions and services for the future teenagers.
The Young Person’s Advisory Group (YPAG) that Sophie is part of has been running since 2015 and have just launched a new website, created with young people for young people. You can also connect with them on Instagram. You can learn more about involvement of young people in the Storytelling Impact Report by the BeGOOD Early Intervention Ethics (EIE).
If you have a co-production story of your own to tell, the Co-Production Collective would love to hear from you. Whether it was a pleasant experience, an unpleasant one, or anything in-between, sharing it with our community allows us to learn and grow together, reflecting on each other’s point of view. Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would be interested in this opportunity.