UCAN StressLESS facilitating conversations about mental health

The UCAN StressLESS project was funded by the Health and Social Care Alliance, to work with 232 young people living with long term conditions in an empowering way. It sought to explore and develop solutions that would increase confidence in how to  manage their physical conditions as well as their mental health needs. To achieve this, the Mental Health Foundation worked with six health charities that facilitate support services and self-management programmes to support young people and their families to navigate long term health conditions.

Over the course of a year from September 2017- 2019, 232 young people joined the UCAN conversation and co-produced the StressLESS Facilitator Pack. The health charities (The Child Brain Injury Trust, Children’s Health Scotland, Versus Arthritis, Eczema Outreach Scotland, Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Scotland, Sanderson High School (Additional Support Needs)) collaborated as delivery partners and steering group members. They facilitated various workshops and events, and were external reviewers of all StressLESS materials. This was key to the sustainability of the project, ensuring that Mental Health Foundation’s focus was on:

  • influencing good practice beyond the life of the project
  • maintaining our ethos as an organisation that does not seek to deliver time limited services, and,
  • sustainability.

StressLESS Facilitator Pack

Following a series of innovation labs where young people told us what was important to them in relation to their mental health and wellbeing and how it links to their physical health, the StressLESS Facilitator Pack was developed. The resource builds on the Mental Health Foundation's ‘5 ways to wellbeing’² by offering young people an interactive walk-through of evidence-informed tips for managing stress. The resource aims to encourage young people to become more curious about their own experiences of stress, to understand how their thoughts and behaviours could frame stress and, importantly, clear tips for managing stress in their lives. The core activities are designed to promote positive strategies by exploring:

The 7 ways to StressLESS:

  1. You Do You - no one knows you better than you, so when it comes to looking after your mental health take some time to get to know what makes you feel good.
  2. Have Fun  -Make Time To Do Things You Enjoy - If you enjoy doing something it probably means you are good at it, which can make you feel like you are achieving something.
  3. Talk It Out -learning about ways to talk about your feelings and finding out who are the best people for you to talk to.
  4. Stay In Touch -feeling connected is important for helping us to feel good. This module helps participants to explore what good relationships look like for them.
  5. Take A Break - exploring positive self care and healthy approaches to looking after our mental health.
  6. Think Inside Out – understanding the connection between mind and body and helps us to look consider the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
  7. Share Your Care - doing good does you good. Recognising the importance of caring for others and how this can also promote positive relationships and good mental health.

The ongoing development of the resource has included gathering feedback from different organisations and schools on the accessibility and impact of different sessions. All of this has informed the flexible resource that is now being used as part of the ‘Get into Summer’ programme.

In addition to our partner delivery organisations providing a wide range of activities to young people across Edinburgh, all staff involved in the summer programme have received one day introductory training on mental health and wellbeing and the use of StressLESS. By building in an evaluation process encouraging organisations to consider how the resource could enhance the work they are doing and, listening to the voices of the young people involved through peer led evaluation; it is hoped that more young people will learn how to manage stress and importantly recognise the importance of discussing their mental health and wellbeing and reaching out for help and support when they need it.

²Based on wider evidence