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Norfolk and Suffolk mental health Youth Council to present at international conference

A Youth Council for NHS services in Norfolk and Suffolk have secured an opportunity to highlight the work they have done with local mental health services at an international conference.

The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust Youth Council will attend the International Association for Youth Mental Health Conference from 30 September to 2 October in Brighton.

The group have been invited to design a poster presentation, which will focus on how the Youth Council have established themselves as key players in the Trust’s decision making process regarding mental health services for young people.

Mark Hemsley, 22, Chair of the Youth Council said: "It’s great that we’ve not only got the opportunity to teach others from across the world about the lessons we have learnt in the first two years of the Youth Council, but to also recognise the amount of support that has been given throughout the Trust and the amount of time and effort every council member has put in so far."

The Youth Council and have already interviewed over 150 candidates applying to work for the Trust, to ensure that people with the right skills and values to engage with children and young people are working in its services.

Emma Corlett, Youth Participation Lead, said: "Before the Youth Council was set up, there was no meaningful participation of young people in services that affected them. Youth Council members wrote a participation strategy and charter, which was adopted by the Trust Board in February 2013.

"These documents set out the Trust’s commitment to participation of young people at all levels of the organisation, and what young people can expect when they are in contact with our services."

There are three levels of participation that the Youth Council oversee: shared decision making about a person’s own treatment, evaluation and development of current services and the strategic direction of services in the future.

Emma added: "In addition to helping the young people involved to build resilience and develop valuable life skills, participation is really important to help maintain positive mental health. It has been shown time and time again that the more involved a young person is in their care then the less likely they are to reach crisis point.

"It has been fantastic to see council members use their strengths, skills and own experience of mental health services to make significant changes that will improve the experience of children and young people in the future."

The Youth Council was set up in Norfolk in 2011 and comprises young service users from child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and early intervention services across Norfolk and Waveney.

Trust services in Suffolk are developing participation in each of its children and young people services, and a Youth Council of its own. Priorities include linking with other youth bodies in the area, assessing how “young person friendly” services are and improving access for young people.

The Council reports to the Trust’s Board of Directors every six months and a representative attends the Service User and Carer Trust Partnership.​