Gareth, our Esteem Network Director, has been working with the education team at a tier 4 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) secure inpatient unit for the past 7 years.
In the last 2 years, he has had the privilege of leading a multi-sessional pilot programme, providing weekly relationships and sex education (RSE) sessions for young people in the care of the unit.
Sharing the learning from this pilot, Gareth led a workshop in Chester on February 26th for educators already working in RSE across the UK. The aim was to equip and inspire them to expand their existing provision of RSE, to include young people experiencing mental ill health outside of mainstream education.
Young people find themselves in the care of tier 4 CAMHS due to a wide variety of mental health needs including, but not limited to, eating disorders, self-harming behaviour, depression, personality disorders, and anxiety disorders.
Whilst the mental health needs of young people in tier 4 units are diverse and specific, they all remain adolescent young people at various stages of physical and emotional development. They all have questions about relationships and sex, just like any other young person who is trying to make sense of, and navigate becoming, an adult.
Often missing school due to ill health, these young people may have missed any RSE provided by their school. Equally, many of the young people on the unit come from home situations where sadly their parents did not cover these topics either. Statistics also show that young people who are experiencing severe mental ill health are at a significantly higher risk of sexual exploitation and sexual ill health.
The training day explored why RSE needs to be a targeted priority for young people who are experiencing mental ill health, and provided practical sessions on breaking the ice and facilitating small group sessions, with young people who have low confidence, little verbalisation, poor cognition and other challenges.
Gareth shared the learning from his own work in a tier 4 unit to help the educators understand how some key mental ill health conditions may present in a learning setting and how this should influence the planning, delivery, materials and approach of any RSE.
A huge part of the success of the pilot programme has been the partnership with the education team at the tier 4 unit, and we were honoured to welcome a member of the team to the training, to share their thoughts and to answer questions. This gave a valuable insight into how the RSE programme is having an impact, and can actually contribute to a young person’s recovery by providing additional opportunities for them to work through RSE related issues with the clinical team in the unit.
Here's some feedback from the workshop:firstname.lastname@example.org.