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Youth participation is widely recognised as essential to the design and delivery of youth mental health services (Coates & Howe, 2014). Despite this there is limited literature available on youth participation in these services (Monson & Thurley, 2011). This study aimed to develop an enhanced understanding about youth participation in Headstrong, The National Centre for Youth Mental Health and it’s programme of service delivery Jigsaw. A mixed methods approach, using focus groups and questionnaires, gathered the opinions of 160 staff and young people involved in the organisation, on their experiences of youth participation. The factors that supported youth participation were noted as; allocated resources to facilitate youth participation, a staff member with responsibility for working with young people, a progressive organisational culture, and positive staff attitudes towards youth participation. Young people expressed beliefs that they had benefited in many ways from being involved in Headstrong/Jigsaw, these included; increased confidence working with staff, better understanding of mental health, increased confidence working in a professional environment, increased feelings of belongingness, and improved help seeking skills. Involving young people had also been beneficial to staff and the organisation in numerous ways including; the promotion of the service, to the young people availing of the service and decision-making. Youth participation in Headstrong/Jigsaw has helped create a service that is youth friendly, credible and accountable. However, the organisation experienced challenges in involving young people, including; a lack of time and resources to adequately involve young people, an absence of training to support young people and staff to work in a participatory way, and a lack of clarity about youth participation within the organisation. To achieve meaningful youth participation within a youth mental health service it takes time, energy and resources to support staff and young people to work together for the betterment of services.
Barry, James (2014) An Investigation of Youth Participation in an Irish Youth Mental Health Service: Staff and Young People’s Perspectives. Dublin, Masters Dissertation, Dublin Institute of Technology.