Friday, 22 April 2022

Significance and Impact of the Agency Project

This is the last in a series of posts reporting outcomes from a project on Agency in Youth Mental Health, led by Rose McCabe at City University. Today, Rachel Temple, Public Involvement in Research Manager at the McPin Foundation, and members of the Young Person Advisory Group [YPAG] tell us about how the project impacted them. 


In the course of the project, YPAG members provided detailed feedback on the application for funding, shaping research questions and outputs; contributed to the research, analysing videos of interactions between practitioners and young people struggling with their mental health; participated in public engagement events and prepared resources for schools on agency and youth mental health; shared their valuable insights, knowledge, and experience on blog posts and podcasts; and co-authored some of the project publications with the other members of the team. 
 
Prior to working on the Agency project, I held a lot of shame and secrecy around my mental health difficulties. Although I occupied spaces in psychological research and clinical work, I was always terrified that my lived experience would be somehow ‘found out’, and I would be seen as ‘less than’ by those around me—less competent, less worthy, less able.
Working with the YPAG changed that for me. We were never treated as less knowledgeable or less capable, and our ideas were meaningfully integrated into the project. Having my own experiences (and that of my peers) be seen as valid and worthy of respect by the research team allowed me to find value and meaning in my own lived experience, and showed me how co-production (when done right) can be an empowering and deeply fulfilling process. —M

 



I have gained a new outlook on how I approach mental health conversations.

Professionally, when discussing my feelings, I can evaluate my sessions and interactions more critically, rather than just using “good” or “bad”. I struggled to put into words how I felt afterwards, whereas hearing and seeing other’s experiences, I can now make sense of them and what may have made me feel that way.

When helping others, I am more mindful of validation. Rather than just looking engaged and being present, I make sure to also follow this up with something like, “That’s completely okay to feel like that.”
– Carmen

 



Being a part of the project has gained me cognisance. I now appreciate even more, when practitioners and professionals practice positive methods of helping to make you feel that you do have agency. I would feel comfortable educating others on why agency is so important. I'm more aware of how integral a part of treatment agency is.

This project also played a role in my self-development. I feel it's lent me an opportunity to do something sanguine and helpful, in turn, allowing me to look at past negative experiences as muse to draw from.
- Nusaybah

 

Being part of the project has been such a rewarding experience for me. I joined the YPAG Agency during the start of lockdown in 2020, a time when I was still at university and the whole world was learning how to adjust to new ways of working and communicating online. It was a difficult and often very lonely time for me. But I always looked forward being a part of the YPAG Zoom meetings because I knew I could be myself as everyone held a space for each other to feel seen, heard and validated. – YPAG member

Rachel Temple
I have nothing but gratitude for the Agency project. I’ve worked with wonderful people. Experts in the field, who genuinely value the importance of lived experience in research. As a young person co-applicant, I was anxious that I wouldn’t have anything to offer. If I felt brave enough to contribute a thought or idea, I worried whether it was good enough. But the team always heard me. They embraced my ideas and made me feel valued in the process. And so, I quickly grew in confidence!

The contributions of the YPAG were central to the project. It’s been especially rewarding to work with this group of young people for two years. I’ve had the pleasure of watching them thrive and bring the project to life. Together we have seized the endless development opportunities the project has offered; from research training, public speaking skills, and the space simply to share experiences. United as peers, it’s felt like we have been on a journey of growth together! The Agency project is thus a glowing example of what involvement in research can offer to young people.

Through this project, we have identified some important ways in which to improve youth mental health interactions. Because of this, I am more mindful of my own needs, as well as how I support those around me. How simply saying “that sounds like a lot to deal with” or receiving a nod of understanding can go a long way. And how the absence of these things can be crushing. These are the lessons that I will be taking with me.
- Rachel K Temple

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