The second year of the covid pandemic proved to be another challenging year for everyone on many levels. On the bright side, we’ve powered through and ‘done’ a lot.
We have continued exploring what meaningful and sustainable involvement entails across a breadth of opportunities and now is a good time to reflect on how these relate to our way of working, achievements and our three different ‘impact’ areas. Read about how we’ve defined these in our latest impact report -May 2021–2022.
Our Young Co-researchers have experienced unprecedented pressures and at times social restrictions; with uncertainty around education, continual school assessments and looming high-stake exams for many. Social distancing restricted in-person meeting for various periods so keeping the digital energy up and coming up with different ways to engage has been a challenge. We have introduced a few different digital platforms to our sessions, and figured out ways of working that offer the young people safe, adult-free spaces to develop their voice and ideas. Some have missed the in-person opportunities but others have continued to welcome the flexibility that digital approaches offer. Despite these pressures and challenges, they have demonstrated their commitment to the group activities when they could and reported many benefits (see report). This is how one member, Sophie (aged 19) who has been with the YPAG for almost 6 years, reflected on another year with the NeurOX YPAG.
“I have loved being part of YPAG and being involved in a group where I feel I am making a difference. I have found all our meetings so interesting and have learnt lots. I really enjoyed the meeting by the Nottingham group about antidepressants and found the research they showed us very eye-opening. YPAG has made me a lot more confident and I now feel comfortable expressing my opinion and talking Infront of a group. It has also taught me a lot about the roles researchers have. I think one challenge has been having the meetings online resulting in some technical problems sometimes or not feeling as much part of a group, however it has also have its pro’s as it has meant some of us can join from uni and some people who cannot make the in person sessions can join. Overall I have loved being in YPAG this year and always really look forward to the sessions.”
Finding opportunities across many projects, on individual co-produced projects and outputs, and with external researchers has enabled us to sustain and enable young co-researchers’ involvement throughout the second year of the pandemic. They have offered their wisdom and applied their lived experiences for many researchers across a range of mental health topics, and different areas of research; this is evident in the breadth of impacts described above. Every member has shown impressive personal development and pushed themselves (and me!) out of their comfort zones, supported others and shown confidence in voicing their knowledge to offer very detailed and high-level strategic insights to different stakeholders. Together we’ve achieved a lot and built our collective capacity to be involved in research. Our focus now is on welcoming and enabling more young researchers to get involved.
Written by Vanessa Bennett