‘I hate having my mental health’ – Making sense of mental health through coproduction and visual methods with young people with complex needs

Wendy Sims-Schouten*, Emma Maynard, Megan Pound

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


There is evidence that research involving young people in conceptual stages of the design can be empowering, leading to a sense of personal agency, sustainable outcomes, interventions and resilience. Yet, despite calls for greater involvement of young people in services that affect them, in reality this is often tokenistic or a ‘tick box’ exercise. This article presents the findings from a practical ‘on-the-ground’ project, drawing on visual methods and coproduction with young people enrolled in a social–emotional and behavioural difficulties school in the UK and practitioners, to gain insight into how they make sense of their mental health. Applying coproduction, our approach was centred around the process of knowledge production, rather than ‘data gathering’. With this in mind, we adopted two mutual and reciprocal phases, the steering group phase and the knowledge production phase, consisting of young people, practitioners and researchers. Results highlight visual methods, in this case drawing/doodling on tablecloths, enabled young people to articulate implicit emotions and affective experiences. Whilst this study does not offer a ‘standard model of coproduction’, by framing coproduction within critical realist ontology and positioning theory, we have come some way in addressing issues around power imbalance and reciprocity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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