Families, carers and partner organisations were invited to Alnwood to meet with staff and find out about life at the unit.
Part of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), Alnwood provides medium secure inpatient assessment and treatment for young people up to 18 years who have complex mental health needs.
There was a parents’ evening, information stalls, activities and a chance to meet staff and other parents in a similar situation.
The day ended with an awards ceremony, with awards for ‘most likely to do the right thing’, ‘most likely to be a good friend’, ‘most likely to cheer you up’, ‘most likely to make you laugh’ and ‘most likely to help’. These were awarded to the young people individually.
Family ambassador Katie Watson organised the event. She said: “It’s really important to offer events like this to parents and carers as it helps them feel like they are part of their child’s care.
“As Alnwood is a medium secure unit, people can be here for a long time. The events give families the opportunity to be involved.”
As a family ambassador, Katie uses her lived experience to support parents and ensure their voice is heard.
“I’m a parent to two neuro-divergent children, so I know what it’s like to go through the system,” she said.
“I promote family involvement, ensuring they have an equal say in their child’s care.”
One parent who attended the event said: “I’ve found today really helpful. It’s good to meet everyone face-to-face, I prefer to see people in person. It’s been really useful, and I’d like to have more events like this in the future.”
Partner organisations were also invited to the event. Mary Scholes is a children’s rights manager at Coram Voice, a children’s charity that focuses on making sure children’s voices are understood, shared and heard.
They are completely independent and advocate for young people, addressing any issues or complaints they may have.
Mary said: “This event helps families and carers feel included. Information is power, and it’s empowering for carers and young people to have information.”
Michael Gibson has been a senior peer supporter at Alnwood for six years. A peer supporter uses their own lived experiences to share insight, understanding and empathy with others on their recovery journey.
“Working with young people is something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “Each person is unique and has different challenges and goals. To support young people during these times is something I feel privileged to be a part of. As a service user and previous inpatient myself, I know the importance that compassion and empathy play in recovery.”
Clinical nurse lead Tom Gardner said: “Working with our young people is extremely rewarding and fulfilling. They are a constant source of inspiration, seeing them progress and recover reminds you why you came into the job in the first place. Plus, they are all great company, with brilliant senses of humour.”