TRIUMPH is focusing on three themes to target our efforts at marginalised groups with the greatest health needs and the peers, social networks and education settings with most influence on young people’s health and behaviours.
Some young people have increased risk of poor mental health and wellbeing, and we will focus first on two groups: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and care experienced young people (including those who have experienced residential care, foster care, kinship care, young offending institutions or other secure units), due to their increased risk of experiencing poor wellbeing, mental health problems and suicide-related outcomes.
Many of the interventions with marginalised groups of young people have focused on mental health problems at the individual level and not addressed the broader social and structural drivers of poor mental health. The lack of involvement of LGBT and care experienced young people in the process of intervention development means that we still have limited knowledge of mental health and wellbeing interventions that are acceptable and effective to them. We will work with young people to develop interventions that are more responsive to the multiple inequalities and disadvantages they can face.
Peers and those in our social network can positively and negatively influence identity, attitudes, preferences, dress style, social and cultural activities, and health behaviours, which in turn can determine health and wellbeing, while social isolation is strongly associated with poorer mental and physical health. Despite the importance of peer and network influences on health, there are large gaps in research on the mechanisms of influence of peers and those in our social networks and we will use network theory to further our understanding here. Given the fast pace of change in social media, there is a need for research exploring how concepts such as connectedness, ostracising, influence, social withdrawal and social support are experienced and can be harnessed and have the potential to improve mental health and wellbeing.
Schools and alternative education settings can play an important role in supporting mental health and wellbeing among young people. There is evidence that well designed and implemented education programmes can lead to positive wellbeing outcomes, but there is a lack of effective system-level interventions that address population health and the needs of marginalised groups in mainstream schools and settings such as Pupil Referral Units.
We will investigate opportunities for addressing mental health and wellbeing through a whole school/college/social care systemic approach, which seeks to affect change across these setting, and by capitalising on and expanding our existing Schools Health Research in Wales and the Schools Health and Wellbeing Improvement Research Network (SHINE) in Scotland.