This blog has been written by Sophie Giles, research assistant at the University of Oxford. Sophie currently works as a research assistant on the Co-CAT Trial within the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford and is part of the TOPIC research group. Sophie has a strong interest in child and adolescent mental health, with particular interest in effective treatments for children and young people with anxiety and depression.
Over the Summer, I was involved in writing a review on the knowns and unknowns of antidepressants in young people aged 14-24. The aim of this review was to highlight what we know about the effects of antidepressants for this age range and what outstanding questions still remain. Therefore, it was really important to work together with a group of young people to get their input in this very relevant topic.
Before working on this project, I had not been involved in any public and patient involvement (PPI) work and so this was the first time recruiting, organising and preparing these sessions.
During this project, we had three workshops over three months, all lasting for two hours. Planning prior to the sessions was required, in which we created some activities to get the young people thinking about what they know and don’t know about antidepressants. During each workshop, we split the group into three smaller groups so that they had the opportunity to discuss the tasks in more detail and to promote a safe and supportive space for discussing complex and serious mental health issues.
The young people also provided insight and supported the production of an animation video for the review. It was really nice to include some of the young people’s voices in the video to add meaning to the video content and to make it more valuable and accessible for other young people watching.
We received feedback from some of the young people that attended the workshops. They shared with us that the sessions were “really enjoyable and the topics of discussion were really engaging” and that the sessions enabled them to meet some “lovely” people. Another young person said: “I feel like I’ve grown in confidence as well as learned so much about how antidepressants work”.
The value that these young people added to the review was evident. They discussed issues that were not fully captured when reviewing the literature, as well as emphasising the importance of certain topics which helped solidify and provide evidence to the arguments that we were making. Allowing their voices to be heard within research that could potentially impact young people was invaluable and created a meaningful understanding of what questions young people still have about antidepressants.
My time spent on the project was a wonderful learning experience and I thoroughly enjoyed working with such an engaged group of young people. I would really implore researchers working in this area to invite young people into their research to bring valuable experiences and views to the work.
The film created for the project in collaboration with young people can be found here: youtu.be/hL4q1R53CWI
The PERL group have also created a podcast with the Mental Elf about the findings from the review: elfi.sh/2J2ZyS3
Background to the project
The Oxford PERL group recently completed an insight review commissioned by the Wellcome Trust, which was part of a series of reviews of the ‘active ingredients’ of interventions to prevent/treat depression and anxiety in young people.
They reviewed the literature about the use of antidepressants in young people and held a series of online workshops with young people with lived experience (supported by the McPin Foundation and the NEUROSEC Young Person’s Advisory Group).
Sophie Giles worked on this project over the Summer 2020.
Photo of young people at a laptop is by John Schnobrich on Unsplash