Abstract for: A Community-Based System Dynamics Approach to Addressing Local Mental Health Needs for Young People

In the United Kingdom, children and young people’s mental health has been declining for decades. This downward trend persists despite significant investments in public health and social care and as a result, services are unable to meet demand. Until recently, these investments have focused services, interventions and therapies that prioritise diagnosed mental disorders, rather than a model of mental wellbeing which includes a broader range of social, individual and community factors (Foulkes, 2021). Furthermore, where public health measures have sought to address sociological determinants of poor mental health, they typically look at high-level changes and miss out on the nuances of local contexts. Responding to this challenge warrants an innovative research approach. Participatory methods like community-based system dynamics are well placed as a research and a modelling methodology to capture multi-stakeholder perspectives on the complex systems which have thus far failed to address this issue. This paper explores how the Kailo programme is adopting a community-based participatory and systems-informed approach to understand adolescent mental health in Newham and North Devon, England. The program of research and design aims to help local communities, young people, and public service partnerships address the wider determinants of young people's mental health.