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The Hot Potato Project

Following World Mental Health Day, NHS England’s Senior Nurse for Mental Health reflects on the importance of nurse leadership in engaging with young people to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing:

In England, at least one in four people will experience mental health problems at some point in their lives.

Over half of these problems experienced in adult life – excluding dementia – start by the age of 14 ,and 75% by age 18.

We know that early intervention and prevention is particularly important in affecting outcomes for children and young people and can have a significant positive impact on a person’s prognosis.

In its’ third year of co-implementation Leading Change, Adding Value (LCAV); a framework for nursing, midwifery and care staff positions nursing, midwifery and care staff as leaders no matter what their role, wherever they work. It highlights the need to apply the same importance on how we measure the outcomes of our work, as we do to demonstrate quality. It focuses on how nursing, midwifery and care staff can lead in tackling unwarranted variation to improve experience, outcomes and use of resources.

This blog describes the work of the Hot Potato Project demonstrating this nurse leadership in action within mental health.

The LCAV case study of The Hot Potato project describes how a student nurse devised a child and adolescent mental health project in Carlisle, to help young people discuss mental health issues, without fear of stigma. This has led to raised awareness, positive feedback and an education programme rolled out across local schools.

Zoe Butler, a student nurse at the time, and who after contributing to the ‘Born in South Lakeland’ an independent review of services supporting children and adolescents with mental ill health in South Lakeland, identified unwarranted variation within her community of mental health issues amongst local young people and the role that stigma plays, as a deterrent to seeking help.

The Hot Potato project with support from the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAHMS) created workshops where the young people could express their fears and anxieties regarding mental health and wellbeing whilst in a safe and secure peer environment.

A DVD of 40 monologues was produced, which is now being used as an educational tool amongst the schools in Cumbria and is educating not just the young people but also the health professionals such as school nurses who are using it. It has also been used in a university for pre-registration students when discussing holistic care.

There is a strong consensus amongst the CAMHS and community nursing teams that this project has provided a preventative intervention before people reach crisis point, or a need to access mental health services. Within Kendal, there has been a very positive increase in young people accessing support at an early stage when they find that they are struggling to talk about mental health.

Feedback from both young people and schools has been overwhelmingly positive:

The project set me on the path towards seeking help with my own mental health problems.

The DVD has…definitely sparked a discussion within the classroom and changed the way that students think about mental illness.

Overall the project focuses on developing emotional resilience within young people, therefore aiming to improve their overall mental wellbeing.

The culture created by the project is one where mental wellbeing is discussed openly; promoting the young people’s health to encourage them to seek help with mental illness if needed and are able to identify signs when requiring help or intervention.

Joanne McDonnell

A published writer and book reviewer with a Masters in Research in Health Sciences, Joanne is Senior Nurse for Mental Health in the Nursing and Midwifery Team at NHS England.

She has won several national awards including Health Writer of the Year and Dementia Care Manager of the Year. She has also starred in numerous promotional nursing films and has been a regular contributor to various national media such as Radio 4.

A member of the Expert Advisory Board for RCN Mental Health Practice, Joanne has extensive experience of presenting at local, national and international conferences. She is currently undertaking a second Masters degree in Healthcare Leadership.

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