Staff design comic to help young people in children’s service

Posted: 07/08/20

Staff have designed a comic for young people to ensure they feel fully prepared before coming into services.

Staff working on Alnwood Unit at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) recognised the difficulties for young people arriving to the unit and wanted to create something that would help put them at ease.

‘Alex Goes to Alnwood’ follows the story of Alex as they come into the service. It gives young people an insight into the care and treatment, environment and how those important to them can be involved during their stay.

Alnwood provides secure inpatient assessment and treatment for young people up to 18 years old who have learning disabilities and or complex mental health needs. Young people are referred from all over the UK, often with lengthy staying for lengthy periods of time.

There are two versions of the comic, one for each of the two wards on Alnwood. Ashby provides treatment and assessment for people aged 12-18 with complex mental health disorders and need a high level of supervision, while Lennox is for young people with a learning disability.

Being far away from home and in unfamiliar surroundings can be a daunting experience. Young people are sent the comic before they arrive as part of their welcome pack. The comic allows them to see who will be on their team and what to expect.

Geoff Cottrell, Specialist Education Activity Coordinator at Alnwood, said: “It’s vitally important to have a resource like this. It can be a very difficult time and in times of crisis people look for information that will help.

“Life can be hard for a young person at Alnwood; our service users have varied backgrounds and needs. It’s our responsibility to make sure they feel as comfortable as possible when they arrive on the unit.”

The comic is a remake of a previous comic, ‘Al Goes to Alnwood’, which had become outdated and no longer reflected the changing picture of the service and the young people who stay there.

Alex is a more gentle and vulnerable character. Designed to be ambiguous, they could either be a boy or a girl.

An artist worked with young people on the design and dialogue, making the comic something that young people would want to read and reflect how they would speak to their friends.

Speech and Language Therapist Gaynor Edwards added: “As young people can come to Alnwood from all parts of the UK, it’s vitally important to maintain external links to help with recovery. We wanted the comic to show that we understand this and aim to provide parents, carers and friends with the opportunity to remain involved in the young people’s lives.”

CNTW is a leading provider of mental health and disability services in the North East and north Cumbria.