Perceptions of the Key Components of Effective, Acceptable and Accessible Services for Children and Young People Experiencing Common Mental Health Problems: A Qualitative Study

Susan Kirk, Claire Fraser, Nicola Evans, Rhiannon Lane, Jodie Crooks, Georgia Naughton, Steven Pryjmachuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Children and young people’s (CYP) mental health is a major public health concern internationally and the recent Covid-19 pandemic has amplified these concerns. However, only a minority of CYP receive support from mental health services due to the attitudinal and structural barriers they and their families encounter. For over 20 years, report after report has consistently highlighted the
shortcomings of mental health services for CYP in the United Kingdom and attempts to improve services have been largely unsuccessful. The findings reported in this paper are from a multi-stage study that aimed to develop a model of effective, high-quality service design for CYP experiencing common mental health problems. The aim of the stage reported here was to identify CYP’s, parents’ and service providers’ perceptions of the effectiveness, acceptability and accessibility of services.

Case studies were conducted of nine different services for CYP with common mental health problems in England and Wales. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews with 41 young people, 26 parents and 41 practitioners and were analysed using the Framework approach. Patient and Public Involvement was integrated throughout the study with a group of young co-researchers participating in data collection and analysis.

Four key themes defined participants’ perceptions of service effectiveness, acceptability and accessibility. Firstly, open access to support with participants highlighting the importance of selfreferral, support at the point of need and service availability to CYP/parents. Secondly, the development of therapeutic relationships to promote service engagement which was based on assessment of practitioner’s personal qualities, interpersonal skills and mental health expertise and underpinned by relational continuity. Thirdly, personalisation was viewed as promoting service appropriateness and effectiveness by ensuring support was tailored to the individual. Fourthly, the development of self-care skills and mental health literacy helped CYP/parents manage and improve their/their child’s mental health problems.

This study contributes to knowledge by identifying four components that are perceived to be central to providing effective, acceptable and accessible mental health services for CYP with common mental health problems irrespective of service model or provider. These components could be used as the foundations for designing and improving services.
Original languageEnglish
Article number391
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2023


  • Children
  • young people
  • mental health
  • service development
  • access
  • personalisation
  • therapeutic relationship
  • self-care
  • mental health literacy
  • qualitative
  • Mental health literacy
  • Service development
  • Mental health
  • Access
  • Qualitative
  • Self-care
  • Young people
  • Therapeutic relationship
  • Personalisation
  • Pandemics
  • Humans
  • Parents
  • Mental Health
  • COVID-19
  • Child
  • Mental Health Services
  • Adolescent


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