CoRAY: Exploring young people’s experiences of being involved in mental health research

What is this project?

The CoRAY project is exploring young people’s experiences of being involved in mental health research in some capacity, including patient and public involvement activities.

Young people aged 11-24 are invited to talk to the team about their experiences of taking part in previous mental health research studies when they were between the ages of 11-16. The CoRAY research team is based at the University of Oxford.

Why is this project important?

The project aims to gain an in-depth understanding of these experiences, in order to help understand the best ways to involve young people in future research, and make sure both young people and researchers can benefit from young people’s involvement as much as possible.

How are McPin and people with lived experience of mental health problems involved?

The study recruited five co-researchers with lived experience of mental health problems to be involved in the interviews, analysis, write up and dissemination stages of the research.

The co-researchers, who are employed by McPin, were recruited from a previous study that McPin was associated with, where they also worked as co-researchers.

The participants in the study were able to choose whether they wanted to be interviewed by a member of the CoRAY research team, a co-researcher, or both, which meant the co-researchers were given the chance to lead the interviews with the young people themselves.

For the analysis stage of the project, thematic analysis was used to analyse the interview transcripts. All the transcripts were uploaded onto Microsoft Teams and the co-researchers were able to add comments and codes to these, alongside those of the CoRAY researchers.

The research team worked with the co-researchers to finalise the themes to be included in the result section of the write up. By being involved so much with the interviewing and analysis stages, the co-researchers were able to use their experiences of being involved in research themselves to relate to, and really understand, what the participants were saying, both in the interviews and the analysis.

Training was provided by the CoRAY research team for the co-researchers for both the interviews and analysis stages.

What is the current status of the project?

The study has come to the end of the interview stage and 15 interviews with young people have been completed by either the research team at the University of Oxford or the co-researchers at McPin.

A summary of the main themes/findings so far:

  • Importance of the young people feeling like their involvement in research is seen as meaningful – feeling heard, valued and like they’re having an impact
  • Supportive culture regarding relationships with researchers and peers – this helps the young people feel they’re in a safe place when taking part in the research
  • Investing in young people – the benefits for young people when getting involved in research is important and the researcher should act as an active facilitator for these positive outcomes
  • Accessibility and Engagement – research opportunities can be inaccessible to young people and often aren’t advertised to a wider audience. Young peoples’ ability to engage with the research must be inclusive and particular consideration should be given to those may encounter difficulties during the project e.g. if they experience mental health problems. Virtual working should also be considered carefully, as there many facilitators and hindrances to working in this way.

A workshop is being run in early 2022 for the co-researchers to look at how to write up the thematic analysis. There is also going to be a co-researcher paper, which will include co-researcher reflections of their involvement in the study. Another workshop is being run in early 2022 for McPin’s input on the writing of this.

The final write ups are set to be completed and disseminated in the spring, which the co-researchers will also have the opportunity be involved in.

Where can I find more information?

Information about the results of this study will be added to the Emerging
Minds Network website at and you can get in touch with the project team on

You can watch a webinar where the CoRAY team and co-researchers from the McPin Foundation presented the studies findings here:

Members of the Young People’s Network and staff at the McPin Foundation have helped researchers and clinicians at Emerging Minds and the University of Oxford to create resources to help support young people’s mental health during COVID-19. You can find them here: