The foundations for successfully tackling the stigma of children’s and young people’s mental health problems

Although it is suggested that all domains of the Tackling Stigma Framework should be implemented simultaneously for greatest effect, this may be difficult in practice. The pilots involved in this project have found that there are some quick wins that may be achieved at earlier stages of implementation to ensure the success of subsequent domains.

The mainstreaming domain of the framework has been found to be a vital element to consider first. Most importantly our pilots have told us that tackling stigma needs to be mainstreamed within an existing structure and its philosophy embedded within a strategy. Depending on the lead organisation, the pilot projects were either anchored in the CAMHS partnership arrangements, through contracts with the third sector or were embedded in the local TaMHS partnership.

Most pilots reported that getting the pilot off the ground was a challenge. Ensuring that the partnerships understood the Tackling Stigma Framework and were committed to its implementation was imperative. Where the tackling stigma message had been disseminated, the sign up of all key agencies had been obtained and a commitment to tackle stigma underpinned the strategy, the rollout of other elements of the framework were more straightforward.

The pilot sites recommended that the citizenship and participation domain should also be implemented at the outset, ensuring that children and young people are involved throughout the planning stage, as well as during implementation and review. Those areas that had robust participation arrangements in place, where children and young people could help to steer the tackling stigma process from the beginning found that progression was much easier. In addition, it was felt that it was important to consider the involvement of professionals who had skills and experience in participation and developing creative approaches to engagement.

The other domain that offers some initial advantage with the implementation of the framework is language and definition. The early identification and agreement of a common and acceptable definition, and language to be used around children’s mental health may help to ensure that the mental health agenda and tackling stigma is at the forefront of everybody’s thinking. Having these discussions and getting agreement across organisations at a strategic level can be a challenge in itself, but will go a long way to ensuring that everybody understands what is required to tackle stigma. The engagement of children and young people at this stage will enable professionals across organisations to listen to their views and concerns, and to ensure that they use language that is acceptable to all.

Finally, consideration of the media as allies domain will ensure the early engagement of the media, maximise media coverage and take full advantage of all awareness-raising opportunities. It may be useful to involve the lead organisation’s communications department, as they will be skilled and experienced in talking to the local media, such as newspapers, radio, and cinema. The other elements of the framework can be implemented once these building blocks are in place and are then much easier to progress.


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