MRC funds innovative product to transform mental healthcare

by Rachel Cook

We have been funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) to develop and feasibility test a digital self-help intervention for young people, a product with the potential to revolutionise the way young people access mental health care.

The project will target young people who are in the beginning stages of mental health problems. Traditionally those young people will access care via appointments with their GP or similar, and most often they would be referred to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service).

Whilst CAMHS staff do a fantastic job, this traditional system is leading to a lack of flexibility in the way that young people access their care, and startlingly long wait times. At the time of writing, 90% of the children and young people attending a first consultation CAMHS clinic appointment waited up to 27.2 weeks (Feb 2018).

Digital transforms mental healthcare delivery
It’s not just the system that is leading the change. The way young people want to access help and support is already shifting, as seen in the not for profit sector, and it is vital that the NHS keeps up with this demand. For example, Childline reported that since online counselling was introduced in 2009, it has now overtaken telephone counselling. In 2016-17 it represented a huge 71% of their total counselling sessions.

This preference for more digital interventions is hardly surprising – it simply echoes the way that the world at large is going – but it is exactly this that Thompson’s new project responds to.

  • Designing a new intervention
    The new intervention will help young people to access their mental healthcare prescription digitally, so that they have an option that might better suit their lives and mindset. It is currently being developed through a series of co-design workshops, run collaboratively by The University of Leeds, mHabitat, Thompson Brand Partners and CommonRoom. These workshops include young people, parents/carers, teachers and professionals with adolescent mental health experience. Thompson’s role is to design and build a product with a user experience that is utterly led by users and to create something that fits into their lives.

    The product will be tested shortly in 4 pilot secondary schools by the end of 2018. The development and feasibility stage of the project is ongoing until April 2019, after which time it is hoped that further funding will be secured to guarantee the future of the product.

    More updates will be provided following the first wave of prototype testing. Or, for more information, contact Rachel on 0113 232 9222, or

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