MH:2K Youth Mental Health Engagement

March 31, 2019 Scott Fletcher Bowlsby
March 29, 2019 MartinKing

MH:2K is a project that seeks to engage young people in conversations about mental health. It follows a process of supporting young people to co-design and co-deliver workshops with other young people on mental health topics, producing recommendations for policy makers.

Problems and Purpose

The MH:2K project uses a unique model for engaging young people in conversations about mental health and wellbeing. Currently it has been applied in Birmingham, Central Lancashire, North Tyneside, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire and Oldham. The project aims to help 14- 25 year olds to

  • Identify the mental health issues that they see as most important;
  • Engage their peers in discussing and exploring these topics;
  • Work with key local decision-makers and researchers to make recommendations for change. [1]

Background History and Context

Know what events lead up to this initiative? Help us complete this section!

Organizing, Supporting and Funding Entities

MH:2K is delivered by a partnership of charity Involve and social enterprise Leaders Unlocked.

Involve is the UK’s leading public participation charity, on a mission to put people at the heart of decision-making. It supports people and decision-makers to work together to solve our biggest challenges.

Leaders Unlocked 
Leaders Unlocked exists to allow young people to have a stronger voice on the issues that affect them. It drives greater accountability and fairness by helping organisations to adopt new ways of working with the young communities they serve. [1]

Organisations hosting roadshow events included: 

  • Council groups 
  • Schools
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Service users’ groups
  • Voluntary and community groups
  • Youth Centres

Participant Recruitment and Selection

Total participants: 127

A core team of young people were recruited as Citizen Researchers. They were recruited from the following areas; Birmingham, Central Lancashire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, North Tyneside and Oldham.

127 participants were recruited, the demographic of these participants was; 36% BAME, 16% LGBTQ+, 12% with a physical or learning disability, 78% with lived experience of mental ill-health. [1]

Methods and Tools Used

The recommendations report describes the principles of the MH:2K project and model:

MH:2K uses a seven-step model designed to benefit decision- makers, researchers and its young participants. The model has three key features: 

  • End-to-end youth leadership: MH:2K’s youth-led approach means it is grounded in the reality of young people’s lives. Young people decide its focus, co-lead its events, and determine its findings and recommendations. 
  • Peer-to-peer engagement: By empowering young people to reach out to their peers, MH:2K creates a safe and engaging space for participants. 
  • Close collaboration with key decision-makers and researchers: By involving key stakeholders in the project from its start, MH:2K builds trust and enthusiasm. It helps stakeholders reach a shared understanding of the challenges they face and a shared commitment to action. 
  • The MH:2K model is transferable; it could work in any UK local area. [2]

At the core of the project was the delivery of 173 roadshow events. These workshops were designed and delivered by 127 young people, identified as Citizen Researchers. They determined the topics of the workshops and were supported in delivering the workshops. With the support of decision makers, the participants analysed the results of the workshops and from this produced a series of findings and recommendations. These recommendations were presented to key stakeholders at a showcase event. [1]

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

Design Days

Using key information and their own experiences the participants, citizen researchers, agreed five key topics for their area. The topics included:

  • Ethnic minorities
  • Family, parents, friends and carers
  • Healthy relationships
  • LGBTQ+ young people
  • Schools and education
  • Self-harm
  • Services and professionals
  • Social media and self esteem
  • Stigma and awareness
  • Young men


Citizen researchers co-designed and co-delivered workshops to engage other young people on priority topics. They were given training in public speaking and facilitation. Roadshows were held at various public venues. 

In total, there were 173 roadshow events, involving 3, 447 young people.

Results Day

The Citizen researchers analysed the Roadshow data, working with local decision maker and researchers to decide the projects findings and recommendations. The process produced 128 findings and 146 recommendations

Big Showcase 

The citizen researchers presented their findings and recommendations to key stakeholders. The total number of researchers and decision makers attended the event. [1]

Influence Outcomes and Effects

Influence on Stakeholders

  • 92.8% of attendees of the Big Showcase said the findings and recommendations were “very useful”
  • 98.5% of attendees said they would do something new or differently as a result of the findings and recommendations

The MH:2K website outlines the following work influenced by MH:2K:

  • Frameworks and strategies
  • Local transformation plans
  • Materials
  • Participation work
  • Practices in schools
  • Training and guidance

Impact on Citizen Researchers

  • 86% reported greater optimism for the future
  • 82% report increased feelings of wellbeing
  • 86& report that their confidence has grown [1]

Analysis and Lessons Learned

An evaluation of the project in Oldham made the following observations

Stimulating interest, debate and informal learning 

The MH:2K process has clearly stimulated debate and informal learning among young people about mental health and its social and cultural impacts. The level of enjoyment among Citizen Researchers has been very high throughout the project and their levels of self-reported knowledge about mental health significantly increased during the project. Roadshow participants also tended to report significant learning. 

Creating dialogue and exchange

The group of Citizen Researchers gelled well, contributing to an open and relaxed atmosphere, which enabled good discussions and free debate, aided by the relaxed style of facilitation. The level of interaction between Expert Panel members and Citizen Researchers worked well, particularly with respect to the Results Day, with both groups expressing positivity about the ability to work together. 

Filling knowledge gaps 

Participants reported learning new things about young people’s mental health as a result of taking part in MH:2K, with some Citizen Researchers in particular identifying ways in which taking part had changed their outlook or aspirations. Expert Panel members and Big Showcase attendees responded very positively to the insights provided by project outputs, with the fact that these had come from young people themselves being a key part of this positive response. 

Reaching new and diverse audiences 

The Citizen Researchers and Roadshow participants represented diverse groups of young people, many of whom had no previous experience with engaging in this type of forum. Many Citizen Researchers have spoken with others about the project and received a positive response. Expert Panel members and Big Showcase attendees have identified other people or organisations they have already spoken to or plan to speak to about the MH:2K project and outputs. 

Encouraging collaboration 

The potential for increased interactions, collaborations and partnerships stemming from MH:2K is clear. Chairing of the Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Partnership in Oldham by a member of the Expert Panel should be a strong driver not only for increased collaboration, but for partnership working that carries forward the ‘project memory’ of MH:2K and its outputs. Expert Panel members all report creating new, or strengthening existing, connections due to their participation in the project. 


The picture given by the overall evaluation input on the project model and delivery is one of extreme positivity from all involved, with a small number of areas where possible tweaks to the process might aid delivery in future. Overall, this was a very strongly delivered project receiving extremely positive feedback from all those involved. 


Stakeholders have identified multiple potential impacts on research, decision-making and engagement practice. There is strong potential for long term positive impacts from MH:2K, and thus there is also the potential for significant improvements in health outcomes to occur if the level of current commitment and excitement created around project outcomes carries forward into action. 

There is high level of expectation from Citizen Researchers and Expert Panel members that change will happen as a result of MH:2K. Initial signs are very positive including: 

• The creation of a Task and Finish group – ultimately reporting to Oldham’s Health and Wellbeing Board and including many MH:2K Expert Panel members. There are plans to offer Citizen Researchers to chance to form a reference group for this work; 

• Ongoing conversations happening in forums outside of MH:2K, such as the Oldham Mental Health Strategic Partnership, Inside Government’s Improving Mental Health Services for Children and Young People forum, and the Care Quality Commission Children and Young People’s Mental Health Advisory Group.  

• The range of ideas and the strength of commitment to acting on the MH:2K recommendations (at least verbally) from many involved.  

Value for money 

The MH:2K process has met practical criteria for value for money in terms of quality of delivery and reach. The potential for long term positive impacts from MH:2K is significant, and therefore the potential for it to be very good value for money from an outcomes perspective is also significant. The current level of interest and impetus emerging from the Big Showcase suggests that there is a strong level of willingness to carry forward impacts in some form, although in some cases this is likely to be dependent on context and resourcing. 

Capturing learning to feed into future projects 

This report and the final project report are the two main physical vehicles for capturing and disseminating learning from the MH:2K pilot project. The amount of learning and knowledge held by the various participants – particularly the Citizen Researchers and Expert Panel members – is an equally important part of carrying forward the project memory and maintaining the impetus for tangible impacts to occur. [3]

See Also



[1] MH:2K (2017) “MH:2K How it works” [ONLINE] Available at:

[2] MH:2K (2017) “What would a mentally healthy area look like? Youth-led recommendations on mental health and emotional well being” [ONLINE] Available at:

[3] Allan, S (2017) “MH:2K Final Evaluation Report”, Involve, 13 July 2017

External Links 


Lead Image: Leaders Unlocked,