Future Voices: Experts by experience - young people helping make a difference in mental health

Katie Davies

Katie Davies - Credit: Archant

The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust Youth Council is a group of young people under the age of 25 from across Norfolk and Waveney, who have experience of using mental health services. We meet every month in Norwich, and we have guest listeners to come and hear our views. This all began in September 2011.

Why I got involved

I thought it would benefit me and help build my confidence and social skills. I wanted to challenge the stigma around mental health and improve services for young people in the future.

My own experience of services had been very mixed. I'd had terrible experiences with some doctors, but also brilliant experiences with one fantastic psychiatrist and other mental health workers who were really passionate about what they did. They really listened to me and let me make choices about the kind of help I got.

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What we've done

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There was nothing that was written down that told young people how they could get involved and our right to be involved, so we wrote a participation strategy that the board of directors (who are the managers who run mental health services) agreed in February 2013.

We have been trained in the staff recruitment processes, and have interviewed all grades of staff including nurses, support workers, psychologists, managers, psychiatrists. We have our own youth panel and have a direct say over who is employed to work with children and young people. People also come to us for our opinions and ideas to improve services.

We report to the board of directors every six months to let them know how well they are sticking to their promises to us.

Things I've done since taking part

Attended a conference in Brighton

Climbed Snowdon

Completed the Mind Youth first aid course

Interviewed numerous staff

Helped design the new youth service

Teaching 4th year medical students about psychosis

What I get out of it

I've made friends, my confidence has grown massively and I get a buzz out of making a difference and improving services. I've had training and experience that has helped me get on my college course. It's been more effective than any therapy I've had! People understand where I'm coming from and we support each other.

Katie Louise Davis, 21, Norwich

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