Safety Nets (Feasibility)

Many young people in the UK experience mental health difficulties. Young people can access CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) for support with these difficulties, which may include interventions like CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). However, waiting lists for CAMHS can be long, and there isn’t always support for young people while they’re waiting to access these services. Data from 2017/2018 shows that some young people were waiting over a year for an initial assessment or to start treatment (HSJ, 2018). Whilst waiting for treatment, many children’s mental health deteriorates further. Some young people may drop out due to long waiting times and not access any treatment at all. This can have a significant impact on their lives and their families and can add additional pressure to NHS services.

Social prescribing is a community and voluntary based initiative whereby young people can receive low level interventions whilst they are on waiting lists for CAMHS interventions. This can help prevent deterioration, increase engagement in activities, and potentially improve symptoms in some people whilst waiting for specialist treatment. Social prescribing is often recommended by the NHS and there is lots of evidence to support its effectiveness in adults, but there are currently limited research studies testing the effectiveness of these interventions for young people.

Safety Nets is a social prescribing intervention currently being studied in a feasibility research project for young people on CAMHS waiting lists. Safety Nets is an 8 week program that combines a physical activity session led by a local sports club (like the local football or rugby club), followed by a psychoeducation session led by a CAMHS clinician. Physical activity sessions might involve a variety of sports such as football, dance, rugby or netball, depending on what the young people in the group like to do. The psychoeducation sessions involves discussion amongst the young people surrounding topics like mindfulness, healthy eating, sleep and peer relationships. Safety Nets aims to promote positive engagement in physical activity and social relationships, and guidance for young people on how to look after their mental health. Overall, this is with the hope that the program will prevent deterioration of the young person’s mental health difficulties whilst they are on a waiting list. 
We are now recruiting young people through CAMHS waiting lists to take part in a Safety Nets program in their area across Yorkshire. This is a year long feasibility study which will lead to a full scale trial.