North Devon Strategies: Mental health and neurodiversity awareness

Katie Potter

One of our co-design groups in Northern Devon has been focused on designing solutions to the challenge: How might we increase education and awareness of mental health,  neurodiversity, and LGBTQIA+  in the community, and amongst professionals, so that young people are better supported?

You can read about the process we went through to get to these ideas in this blog about the magic of co-design, but this blog highlights the key challenges we identified as a team with regards to this prioritised area, our high-level recommendations in response to this, as well as the specific intervention the group have designed.

Key challenges identified by the Co-Design group through deeper discovery: 

The co-design group found that:

  1. Young people often do not feel safe in schools; mental health is not seen as high priority, there is a lack of safe spaces and trusted adults that they can go to for support, and teaching staff are not supported or encouraged to implement different practices in their day-to-day work to support mental health and wellbeing, particularly for neurodivergent young people.  
  1. Young People feel that the community mindsets and beliefs in Northern Devon lead to a lack of understanding, acceptance or support for mental health, neurodiversity, LGBTQIA+, and there is a lack of accurate information and educational opportunities around these key areas that the communities can access. This includes some of the attitudes, mindsets and level of understanding from parents, which impacts on their relationship and ability to support their young people.  
  1. There is a lack of awareness amongst young people and families about what support is available in Northern Devon, and not enough spaces exist where young people can go to get support. Where there are spaces and support, this is often limited, or restricted in some way (e.g. time-limited support, age limited)  
  1. Commissioning and funding practices tend to focus on short term projects, leading to a lack of sustainable support for young people.  

The Co-Design group’s response and high-level recommendations   

Through our work, we have identified key changes we want to see within Northern Devon that will better support young people’s mental health and wellbeing, particularly for young people who are neurodiverse, and/or identify as LGTBQIA+.

To do these, we need:  

How can we do this?

Below are some of the key ways that the co-design group believe have the potential to positively work towards this vision. We have identified that it is necessary for this to be a whole-system approach and commitment, to effectively change young people’s experiences and outcomes in this area:

  • Flyers and posters
  • Website and online support and signposting for young people
  • Film/videos to inform and raise awareness
  • School assemblies and classroom activities
  • Training courses for professionals
  • Ways to increase visibility

    Principles that can underpin the impact: 

    The Kailo Co-Design group has worked to design solutions that can be most impactful if the intervention is:

    We are now working with local organisations and partners to be able to design these up in more detail, and to implement these ideas in Northern Devon. This includes working with Young Devon to develop the Youth Enquiry Service centres – a place where young people can go for support and advice in Barnstaple – as well as continuing to build momentum around elevating young people’s voices in North Devon to effect wider change. If you work in Northern Devon and would like to get involved/support with implementing some of the different aspects of this work, we’d love to hear from you! Get in touch with Katie: