West Dunbartonshire project explores mental health services for young people


By Jo Neary and Romina Madrid

The Network for Social and Educational Equity (NSEE) is currently working with colleagues in West Dunbartonshire to evaluate the experience of young people in the area trying to access mental health support.

The first part of this work was a consultation with practitioners—teachers, third sector workers, educational psychologists and others—to look at existing practices and where they stood. The second part focusses specifically on the young people in West Dunbartonshire. What is it like accessing mental health support and information? What do they know or understand about the resources available to them in West Dunbartonshire?

Our second piece of work is guided by the principles of Participatory Action Research (researchers and participants working together to understand a problematic situation and change it for the better), and existing evidence from Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) as it refers to young people and mental health services.

With and by young people

Phase two is driven by the need to ensure any research activity is with and by the young people who are the intended end-users.

Therefore, this phase will involve inviting a group of 6-8 young people (aged 16+) with an interest in mental health and research, to join an ‘ideas group’. This group will work with the NSEE researchers on a series of exercises that will guide and evaluate the research project.

We anticipate this will also include working with the group to create the interview questions, recruitment strategies and dissemination activities. This activity will inform how we research and consult with young people and is likely to involve a series of focus groups with targeted populations of young people.

Seeking participants

The NSEE team will work with organisations such as Working 4 U, Y-sort it, and education to help identify the young people who might like to take part.

In addition to this, the NSEE team will also work with a group of young people from a local West Dunbartonshire secondary school, who have received previous training in the Capabilities Approach by Children’s Neighbourhood Scotland, around a co-produced ‘road map’ of services.

This exercise will involve young people as ‘co-researchers’ involved in all stages of the activity (planning, management, analysis, and dissemination). The output of this piece of work will be a series of recommendations regarding accessibility of the Health and Social Care Partnership’s youth mental health information page.

Report due later this year

The results of the work will be available later this year and will take the form of a report produced by Dr Jo Neary and Dr Romina Madrid alongside the young people, along with any other medium—a film, exhibition or other–the ‘ideas’ group feels is appropriate.

Dr Neary said: “We’re really looking forward to this phase of the project, as it’s sure to throw up some innovative and original ways to tackle young people’s access to mental health services in West Dunbartonshire, which will hopefully be of interest to other local authorities not just in Scotland, but UK-wide. 

“It is important that young people’s voice is at the centre of these discussions, so we are particularly excited to recruit and work with young people in our ideas group. They will play a vital role in planning our fieldwork, and disseminating the results- ensuring that we are asking the right questions, to the right people, and communicating results in a way that makes sense for them.”

About Jo and Romina

Dr Jo Neary is a research associate with the NSEE team based at the University of Glasgow. Her research interests include how social policy influences people’s experience of neighbourhood, education, and health; and the role of education in developing supportive systems for young people. 



Dr Romina Madrid works with the Network for Social and Educational Equity as an international research associate.

Romina has extensive research experience and skills from educational institutions in both the US and Chile, and has worked on areas of school improvement and leadership. She is passionate about socio-cultural dimensions—namely, social class, gender and race, and how they impact on educational inequality.

Photo of young people by form PxHere



We are the Network for Social and Educational Equity, based in the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change at the University of Glasgow. We work with governments, educational institutions, local authorities and teachers to promote educational change.

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About NSEE

The Network for Social and Educational Equity (NSEE) is part of the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change (ROC) at the University of Glasgow.

It works in collaboration with schools, local authorities, Education Scotland and partner services to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap in young people’s education.

NSEE helps schools to use appropriate evidence and data within collaborative working approaches to critically examine context and current arrangements, make changes based on evidence, monitor the impact of these changes and reflect on what they learn.

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