SMYLE Supporting Mental health services for Young peopLEā€Œ

Project Team

Principle Investigator: Dr Kerri McPherson (

GCU Co-investigators: Dr Kareena McAloney-Kocaman, Dr Birgit Schroeter

Researcher: Dr Pia Faeth

Funder: NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde

Dates: Ongoing



Estimates suggest that between 10 and 20% of children and young people experience mental health difficulties at some point in their lives. Globally, mental health conditions account for about 16% of the burden of ill health in adolescents, and suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-19 year olds (World Health Organisation, 2018). Hence, it is no surprise that the number of referrals made to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Scotland has been increasing over the years and is expected to increase even more due to the impact of COVID-19 on young people’s mental health. With this in mind, there is recognition of the need to promote mental wellbeing, and prevent and treat mental health problems in children and young people. However, there is also growing awareness that some young people can struggle to access or stay engaged with mental health services. Non-attendance at first appointment and drop-outs during treatment can be quite high, especially for certain neighbourhoods of Glasgow. As such, a better understanding is needed of what hinders and helps young people to stay engaged with the services, taking into account contextual factors and recognising engagement as a multidimensional construct that is more than simple attendance.

Aims and Objectives

The aim of this study is to explore barriers and facilitators to engagement with mental health services (including Specialist Children’s Services and CAMHS) for young with a view to making recommendations to underpin future service delivery in NHS GGC and more broadly. Adjustments to the aims and objectives have been made in response to COVID-19.

The specific objectives are to:

  • Explore young people’s knowledge, understandings and experiences of mental health and mental health help seeking in the COVID-19
  • Explore young people’s perceptions and beliefs about specialist mental health services, and perceptions and beliefs about treatment effect/benefit
  • Explore the role of family, peers, and others in facilitating/preventing engagement with mental health services
  • Explore professionals’ perceptions and experiences of working to engage young people mental health services
  • Explore whether there are aspects of service provision, young people’s perceptions and beliefs and/or socio-cultural issues that might widen the inequalities gap and/or promote disengagement

Study Design

The study has three phases. Phase 1 is a planning phase in which a review of the literature is being undertaken to help to inform the direction of the research, the proposed methodology and recruitment of young people. In Phase 2 online stakeholder engagement is being arranged with key stakeholders (young people (12-25 years), their parents and professionals providing treatment/signposting families). In Phase 3 qualitative data is being collected in form of online interviews with young people, parents/caregivers and professionals to explore barriers and facilitators to engagement with mental health services.