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The follow-on to Agency, exploring how young people feel helped or harmed by mental healthcare interactions.

Project overview

The Agency project looked at how young people feel helped or harmed by mental healthcare interactions.

To explore this, we have been doing, and will be doing more of: 

  • Working alongside young people, clinicians and academics across philosophy, ethics and psychology to explore agency in youth mental health. 
  • Co-analysing (alongside our Young Person’s Advisory Group) verbal and non-verbal communication in mental health encounters involving young people and professionals, to see how their agency is helped or hindered in those interactions. 
  • Asking young people how best to interview them about their experiences of mental health interactions. 

 The first Agency project began in 2020. The team then received more funding to do a follow-up project, which is called Agency-in-Practice. 

 In Agency-in-Practice we will be building a new ‘methodology’ (i.e. a formal way of doing something) based on what we did in our first project.

We have shown in our previous project that our methods of co-analysing are acceptable to young people, feasible for researchers, and produce valuable research. We want to expand on this and develop it to meet the needs of the youth mental health research community.

As part of building this methodology we ran an evaluation with young people peer researchers to understand what went well and what we could improve on.  

We have been working with videos of clinical consultations, so far. Other data sources (interviews) will be brought into the new co-analysis. By showing how young people can engage with different forms of analysis, we will develop a methodology that other researchers can use. The aim is that other researchers will learn from this project and be able to co-analyse data with young people effectively, and benefit from young people’s expertise. 

 What is ‘agency’?

Agency is the capacity of an individual to act independently and make their own choices. 

What is co-analysis?

Co-analysing is the process of interpreting research data together, making sense of the findings by drawing from our own experiences and perspectives. 

Videos from the young people we worked with

See below for the videos the young people worked on that cover the topics: How to get help; Working with a mental health profession – what is ok vs what isn’t ok; Finding the right treatment for you.

Project details

Mental healthcare interactions offer access to treatment and support from services. However, conversations with young people have revealed that sometimes services seem to speak a different language to young people.   

This can lead them to feel that they are not involved in decisions about their own care; like their needs have not been met and, ultimately, that their sense of their agency is not being respected.   

This project will further explore how young people feel enabled to be ‘active agents’ in their care and identify solutions they feel will help, rather than harm, them. 

It will also help us share how young people and the research team worked together to do this work so others can enhance their collaborative involvement work.  

This project is supported by a Young Person’s Advisory Group (YPAG) of ten young people who will be working collaboratively to co-analyse data, provide project advice and co-produce papers and outputs 

The evaluation of Agency was undertaken by young people peer researchers who are continuing to support with facilitation of the YPAG.  

You can find out more about the first Agency project here.

For more information on Agency-in-Practice, email [email protected].

Work with us

We are always excited to hear from others who want to collaborate on mental health research. From delivering peer research to helping you with public involvement strategies and providing training, get in touch to chat.