| Helen Sharp

MAC-UK has been a pioneering force in young people’s mental health services since 2008 and they continue to grow from strength to strength. They co-produce all of their approaches with young people, treating them as experts and starting by asking them for their help rather than the other way round. The young people are an early reality check on any initiative and MAC-UK harness the expertise that springs from their lived experience as young people, in their communities, on the street, to learn what would work for them and their peers. Then they adapt their NHS practice.

Young people involved with MAC-UK always have the option to peel off into Streetherapy, which helps to deliver conventional therapy but in a highly flexible way – whatever, wherever to whoever. Most of the young people MAC-UK work alongside have little experience of talking as a therapeutic intervention, so asking direct questions like ‘do you want to talk about that?’ or ‘how did that make you feel?’ can be off-putting for them.

‘Moving from seeing the young people as the object of their care and making them architects of their own support.’

Streetherapy is about bringing psychological thinking into everyday interactions. It can therefore range from having conversations on a park bench or in a café to helping a young person write their CV or accompanying them to an appointment. It is not the activity that is important but the conversations that you can have whilst completing the task at hand. By completing an activity or task, it takes the focus off the young person’s mental health and relieves the pressure of formal talking.

One of their pioneering projects, the Integrate Model, works intensively for 2 to 4 years with up to 50 young people per year. These young people are among the 5% that commit 50% of youth crime and have a history of non-engagement with existing services. By giving them the opportunity to create and own a project that they find interesting, whether that might be setting up a boxing club or DJ-ing, young people successfully engage.

Find out more about their work here.

Photo by Viviana Rishe

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