Our Minds Our Future (OMOF) is a project giving young people the opportunity to influence the way mental health services are designed and run across the UK.
Across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, young people are coming together to raise a collective voice for the kind of transformational change they want to see in the mental health system in their communities.
In Wales, OMOF is delivered by ProMo Cymru and our partner, Adferiad Recovery (formerly Hafal). Together, we support a group of young people from across Wales to be involved in campaigning and influencing work to create meaningful change.
The project is funded for 5 years thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund from 2019-2024.
Over the last few years, there have been increasing concerns about young people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health, and louder calls to improve how young people are being helped and supported.
The most influential voices are from young people themselves. The OMOF young advocates, a group of young people involved in the project, have bravely shared their experiences of mental health services with us in hopes of improving it for future generations.
The Call To Action document, coproduced with Welsh OMOF young advocates using a rights-based approach, explains what changes young people in Wales demand.
There are 5 demands that are highlighted:
Demand 1 – We want a centralised way for 16–25 year-olds to find and access support
Demand 2 – We want to see services working well together to help us using a holistic approach
Demand 3 – We want to access face-to-face and online settings that are safe, welcoming, and respectful
Demand 4 – We want influencers and decision-makers to listen to us, hear our voice and be accountable to us
Demand 5 – We want to see a minister with a portfolio for children and young people up to the age of 25
The Call To Action speaks to young people and adults alike because everyone has a part to play in making a difference in the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people.
Since the onset of the project, the Welsh OMOF young advocates have campaigned to have their demands heard by influencers and decision-makers in the mental health and political spheres.
Throughout the duration of the project, the OMOF young advocates used a variety of methods to engage with professionals, including writing letters and emails to Cabinet Members and Ministers in Welsh Government and attending workshops hosted by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales.
They have delivered meetings and roundtables with stakeholders to raise awareness of the project and our aims.
Our most influential event was an online conference held on 8th June 2023. The four-hour online event focused on three main areas that were important to the 7 young people who are part of the project:
Workshop 1 explored inpatient mental health care for young people in Wales. Two OMOF Young advocates, Martha and Rain, shared their stories of being in inpatient care, which led to discussions about what went well and what could have been improved. The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Euan Hails, who was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List of 2022 for services to children and young people’s mental health in Wales.
Workshop 2 highlighted how social media could be used to promote good mental health. Andrew Collins and Lucy Palmer, digital experts at ProMo-Cymru, explained the need for services to be on social media platforms to provide support to young people in places where they spend their time. They focussed on how organisations can cut through the noise of harmful content online and disrupt the feed to support young people.
Workshop 3 highlighted the NEST framework and how that is making a big difference in early intervention and prevention care in Wales. The session was delivered by Millie Boswell, who is the NYTH/NEST Implementation Lead for Welsh Government. She explained how she is implementing the NEST framework to create a whole system approach to improving mental health and well-being services for babies, children and young people. Josh and another young person, two OMOF young advocates, shared their stories about what good early intervention support looked like and how this has helped them in their recovery.
Over 30 professionals from across the public and third sector organisations such as North Wales CAMHS, Welsh Government, Platfform, Barnardo’s, Mind, NHS Wales, Newport Mind, The Venture, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, attended the conference. They were very engaged and left positive feedback, including:
“This was the best online conference I’ve been to.”
“I loved hearing directly from the young people; This was so powerful and engaging, and I was amazed at their confidence and eloquence on such challenging and personal subject matter. Really well done on your work engaging with them; they clearly trust you and feel empowered!”
Creating change to policy can take a very long time to do. However, we feel that the Our Minds Our Future (Wales) project has successfully connected young people to influencers and decision-makers who were able to listen to their experiences and take this forward when considering changes to policy.
One stakeholder shared that:
“As someone who works for CAMHS at Welsh Government, I don’t have contact with young people, so what I learned will be on the forefront of my mind when I’m at meetings and doing work going forward”.
The Welsh OMOF young advocates are extremely proud of their campaigning work and express how the Our Minds Our Future project has helped them to grow in confidence and helped to improve their mental health.
One member who is 19 from Cardiff shared that, “I wanted to join because I wanted to meet other young people from similar backgrounds as myself, that had similar views and opinions to me, around services and the improvement of services”.
Many are now involved in other mental health projects, such as ‘Don’t Touch, Tell’ (Adferiad Recovery), Senedd Advisory Board, Early Intervention in Psychosis Service in Gwent (Aneurin Bevan University Health Board), Cardiff Youth Council, Mind’s strategic group, and Blooming Change’s strategic group.
Some have decided to gain qualifications and enrol on courses such as a peer mentoring course from NYAS and a counselling course at Cardiff and Vale college.
To help measure the impact of the project, we interviewed the OMOF Welsh young advocates. This video highlights positive changes young people have seen in services in Wales, and also captures the personal progression of the young people involved in the OMOF project.