Mental Health and Wellbeing for Young People

In response to the recent Government green paper on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision, NORDOFF ROBBINS CEO, Julie Whelan, writes:

We at Nordoff Robbins are delighted to see the priority focus the government is placing on youth mental health, which they’ve set out clearly in their recent Green Paper on Children and Young People’s Mental Health.

We, alongside 2,700 others, took part in the consultation on the paper, and welcome the government’s response to our suggestions. In particular, we support plans to provide a more joined up approach to mental health support – not just across health and education, but also other services – in a multi-agency approach to understanding and meeting the needs of children and young people in an area, and we look forward to seeing how this is developed and implemented.

We believe that joined up provision is of key importance – and our music therapists see the value of this every day, in their work with young people, in local schools, hospitals and community centres, where we work collaboratively and use music to enrich the life of the whole organisation. 

The governmental focus on early prevention is also heartening, as is the desire for a collective approach through the creation of community-based mental health support teams, with a designated lead for mental health in each school and college. This represents a transformational new way of working, which could significantly help to strengthen the support networks and provision for children and young people experiencing mental health issues.

In his first major speech as Health Secretary, Matt Hancock also recognised that prevention is “mission critical to making the health and social care system sustainable,” and this and his determination to have joined-up care centred around individuals is incredibly encouraging. We fully support this way of working. 

We believe that the inclusion of a music therapist, or access to music therapy, as part of these new support teams, could fundamentally bolster this provision, as music therapy can be a very effective in supporting young people when they experience mental health issues. It can have a positive impact on anxiety reduction and aspects of social interaction – in effect helping young people to overcome some of the barriers which prevent them from living their lives to their fullest potential.

Music-making is uniquely effective in engaging young people who might otherwise resist engagement with other services, as it focuses on utilising what they can do, rather than what they can’t, and helps to build their confidence in safe surroundings. It gives young people the opportunity for self-expression in a creative, non-verbal way.

Nordoff Robbins research into the impact of music therapy in school settings has demonstrated the positive impact it has on general health, including through relieving stress, enhancing quality of life, and reducing negative behaviours, as well as on learning and development and developing communication skills. More broadly, our music therapy has been shown to have a positive impact on quality of life and wellbeing by 91% of people we work with, with 95% also saying it has helped their interaction, communication and/or relationships.

Music therapy, and art therapies more broadly, have the potential to help transform mental health provision as part of whole-system approach – as shown by our research, and lived by our music therapists in their work with our beneficiaries, day in day out. By introducing it for young people from a young age, as part of a holistic and joined-up approach to mental health support, we can create a healthy, supportive system that is good for young people, good for the education system, and good for the NHS.