Arts and sports to prescribe to adolescents with mental disorders

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Social prescriptions for activities such as the arts, music, dance and sport are to be offered to adolescents with depression and anxiety as part of a new project led by researchers at UCL.

Social prescribing is increasingly being adopted by GPs in the UK to treat people with mental health conditions, but the vast majority of referrals are to adults.

Treatment works by connecting people to non-medical forms of support within the community such as skills development and training programs including friendship programs and cultural activities to empower individuals and address the social determinants of ill health.

For the new INSPYRE project, funded by the Prudence Trust and led by Dr Daisy Fancourt (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care), the research team will work with children and adolescents aged 11-18 to examine how Social prescribing might work best for young people with mental health issues.

The program will be offered as a pilot project to 600 young people aged 11 to 18 who are on waiting lists for mental health services for problems such as depression, anxiety and PTSD. This will be carried out at a number of sites across England, in partnership with 10 NHS child and adolescent mental health trusts.

At the same time, the team will assess the feasibility, uptake and cost of the service, as well as its effectiveness, with the goal of the model they are developing being scaled up nationally, bringing social prescribing to thousands of additional young people who could benefit from it.

Dr Fancourt said: “Social prescribing has been rolled out nationally by the NHS since 2018, but unfortunately many children and young people are not engaging with social prescribing and the evidence base for this population in is still in its infancy.

“I am delighted that the Prudence Trust is funding this programme, which has the potential to increase social prescribing among children and young people by providing a new pathway to community activities, improving person-centred care and positively transforming the experiences of children and young people. young people on waiting lists for mental health services.

The program aims to allow young people to choose the activities that suit them. These can range from community or voluntary activities such as gardening, to a range of arts and sports groups, from roller-skating to surfing. Once referred, young people will work with a relay worker who will help them identify the activities that would suit them best.

The program aims to support the mental health of young people at a time when their need has been identified but conventional treatment may not be in place for some time.

The Prudence Trust is a charity which invests in the advancement of mental health services and research for young people in the UK.

Director of the Prudence Trust, Tara Leathers, said: “UCL is a research engine in the mental health of children and young people. We want to partner with organizations that can help advance our understanding of child and youth mental health and whose research will have real-world impact.

“Dr. Fancourt’s INSPYRE program has the potential to significantly increase referrals for young social prescribers and build a strong knowledge base through the development of a new social prescribing care pathway. We look forward to exploring the impact of this project on the mental health of children and youth.

Chair of UCL’s Child and Youth Mental Health Strategy Implementation Group, Professor Essi Viding (UCL Psychology and Language Sciences), added: “UCL is in a position unique in conducting innovative and groundbreaking research on child and youth mental health, thanks to the breadth of different research traditions found at UCL.

“With the new Child and Youth Mental Health Fellowship and support for our social prescribing work, contributions from the Prudence Trust have the potential to bring about significant improvements in child and youth mental health and support the mental health services that work with them.. I am delighted that the Prudence Trust is partnering with us to enable this work.

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