What Should Personalised Mental Health Support Involve? Views of Young People with Lived Experience and Professionals from Eight Countries

CORC, in collaboration with Euro Youth Mental HealthWACIT and eight partner organisations around the world, worked together on a research project to better understand what helps young people aged 14-24 when they experience, and to prevent, anxiety and depression. The main goal of the project was to review the list of ‘Active Ingredients’ of prevention, treatments and approaches brought together by the Wellcome Trust (illustration below), and details of this study have been covered in this previous CORC blog.

In our more recently published article and this blog we reflect on how this work can help us to understand how to make mental health support more personalised to the needs of young people, and if there were differences between countries and sociocultural contexts in terms of what young people thought was important to them.

Research has previously shown that young people really value mental health support that is tailored to them, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach which doesn’t suit everyone. Overall, although some country-specific differences were found in terms of what active ingredients, or aspects of support, young people found to be most important, individual preferences were considered stronger, showing that support should be personalised to the needs of the individual young person. When systems of support are not tailored to individual needs, it leads to reduced access for many young people. This is especially true for young people from marginalised or minoritised groups, as systems are historically built around White Western concepts of understanding and treating mental health difficulties, and so what these young people need to best support them isn’t readily available and they are excluded from receiving quality care.

There are many factors that affect what young people find useful for personalised support, for example socioeconomic status, educational background, and previous experiences. It’s also important to remember that the way in which these aspects may be incorporated into mental health care internationally will depend on the different systems and practices of each country. The language used to describe aspects of personalised support needs to be carefully considered so that it can understood by young people and professionals from different contexts, including marginalised and minoritised groups and communities. This includes things such as translation into different languages and providing explanations for the meaning behind certain aspects of personalised support, where necessary. As individual preferences may be more relevant than country-specific preferences, we suggest using one list of aspects of personalised support internationally, with the option for young people to make the list tailored to their preferences. In addition, young people experiencing anxiety and/or depression should be able to choose for themselves which aspects of support they would prefer in their own care and support plans, with families and mental health professionals providing guidance where appropriate, rather than removing the young person from the decision-making process altogether.

Mental health services may need support with adapting practices in some contexts in order to support young people in this person-centred way, and specific training on how to facilitate the shared decision-making process may also be beneficial for some mental health professionals. At a higher level, government mental health strategies should incorporate ideas about personalised care, as has already been done in countries such as the UK and Australia, and work towards improving the organisation of resources to facilitate this approach, including in low- and middle-income countries where resources may be limited, and services may already be under pressure from competing health priorities.

Finally, young people need to be supported not only to access and understand the aspects of personalised support available to them, but also how to use and implement them, especially at times when engagement with mechanisms may be most challenging (and most important).

Ayesha Sheikh, Research Assistant

You can access the full research here:


Sheikh, A. Jacob, J., Vostanis, P., Ruby, F., Spuerck, I., Stankovic, M., Morgan, N., Pinheiro Mota, C., Ferreira, F., Eruyar, S., Yilmaz, E. A., Fatima, S. Z., & Edbrooke-Childs, J. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research

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