The award-winning DISCOVER programme has been teaching Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques to young people under stress in schools in the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) catchment area (Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham and Croydon) since 2012.
Known as DISCOVER, the programme uses multimedia techniques and peer support to tackle low mood symptoms and improve teenagers’ ability to cope with stress and worry.
Building on its success, Dr Irene Sclare the Consultant Clinical Psychologist in charge of DISCOVER, recognised the need to adapt the approach to reach more teenagers in need – specifically those who have been in care. A recent NSPCC study reports that looked-after children (LAC) are approximately four times more likely to have a mental health disorder than children living with their birth families.
Thanks to the Maudsley Charity and your donations, the DISCOVER team has been awarded £50,000 to extend the project to this group of vulnerable young people.
Extending the reach to school-leavers
The new DISCOVER project will offer 12 weeks of workshops that relate to the lives of looked-after teens along with a new video and takeaway workbook. The workshops will be offered in non-clinical settings to broaden its appeal to those who are experiencing problems with stress and low moods.
‘Looked-after youth face particular care-related stresses that are not reflected in the current version of DISCOVER, and are less accessible via schools,’ explains Dr Sclare:‘We also really need to extend the reach of the current service to those who have already left school.’
Teenage Advisory Group offers insights and advice
Clinical Psychologist Dr Lili Ly joined the project in June 2017. She’s collaborating with looked-after young people to adapt the DISCOVER programme, along with a Teenage Advisor Group (TAG) made up of looked-after teens and older care leavers.
They will advise Dr Ly on the key life stresses that the new programme needs to tackle and input on how to make DISCOVER more appealing to their peers. The group will also redesign the film characters and vignettes used in the current programme.
A forgotten group
‘For 16- to 19-year-olds who are leaving care, moving to independent living is a huge step,’ explains Dr Ly. ‘Young people who have been in care are likely to have many additional stresses, and often with limited support. When I’ve met them, they often talk about being the forgotten children and it’s for this reason I’m hugely passionate about the project. It aims to reach young people who have been difficult to reach’.
‘We’re not targeting young people in crisis, but those who on the face of it may be doing OK,’ she continues. ‘They may be in education or in a stable foster placement but may not be receiving any mental health support because they don’t reach the threshold for complex mental health difficulties.’
The DISCOVER team are also consulting specialist practitioners in mental health, social care and third sector agencies for looked-after children about getting the new version of DISCOVER to make an impact with its audience.
The adapted workshop will then be piloted with the advisory group and other looked-after youth. Their thoughts and feedback will be incorporated in the updated staff training package.
Equivalent to six or seven therapy sessions
‘We know we’ll be reaching out to new groups,’ explains Dr Sclare, ‘particularly those from troubled family backgrounds, who are living independently without parental support and are less comfortable accessing formal clinic-based services.’
Each workshop will be run by two clinical psychologists and will include six or seven young people. ‘This will be the equivalent of six or seven therapy sessions in a single workshop,’ says Dr Sclare.
Publicising the DISCOVER workshops
Dr Sclare is already thinking about how to publicise the programme. ‘We might need to bolt it on to other wellbeing services – a professional or educational hub. We may go into community centres, plus we have the website and need to think about Facebook and other social media,’ she says.
The project is expected to be completed in July 2018. Once it’s been tested, the plan is to roll out the new version of DISCOVER to looked-after teens in other boroughs within the SLaM catchment area.
Without support from donations, service users at South London and Maudsley would have far less access to innovative extra services like the DISCOVER programme. Get involved today and help support life-changing projects at SLaM.