Co-production is people working together, and sharing their experiences and ideas, to design and deliver services.
Rachel is a Trauma-informed Counsellor for our Housing First services. Here, she tells us more about working with Housing First customers to co-design a ‘mental health first aid kit.’
In Housing First, we’ve been co-producing a ‘mental health first aid kit’. The idea came from working with a group of people who had recently been trained as mental health first aiders. It struck me that when you train in physical first aid skills, a lot of the exercises are practical, you often have some sort of equipment (bandages, plasters, etc.) and you follow sets of tangible instructions. When it comes to using your first aid training in the outside world, people are familiar with the procedures and you have first aid kits everywhere! When it comes to using your mental health first aid training in practice, things might feel less clear cut. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a tangible resource that we could reach for?
I also thought a mental health first aid kit could complement our trauma informed approach – one of the first steps in healing from trauma is re-learning to stay in the present moment. The kit could help people cope with the tricky sensations and feelings of being present; the idea is to soothe yourself, survive the moment, stay connected with your body.
The first step in this journey was exploring whether other people thought this was a good idea or not! Would customers use such a kit? Would they be interested in talking about it and designing something? I spoke with our Customer Collaboration Team who gave me some great advice and tips on how to approach customers and how to make participating as accessible as possible. I also ran a brainstorming session with the Housing First keyworkers, exploring how they would use a kit and what they would put in theirs.
Participation was open to all Housing First customers and people were offered a £5 voucher for their time. I used a mixed method approach, with some structured interview questions and space for open verbal, written or creative feedback. I created my own box of items that people could explore, as well as showing them some picture examples.
In the end, four customers wanted to participate in the project. The Customer Collaboration Team and I were particularly interested in personalisation, and explored how we could create a standard kit but still make room for people to have choice and to make it their own. We came up with a £10 multi-shop voucher (in a golden envelope!) so that people could choose an item or how to spend that in the most meaningful way for them. Additionally, a couple of the participants mentioned some specific small items that they would choose, so we have adapted the standard kit to personalise those for them. A kit will be available for all Housing First customers who would like one.
The final kit comes in a colourful drawstring bag and contains…
The contents list is quite different from how I originally imagined it, which is the joy, and arguably the purpose, of co-production.
The final part of the project is what to call the kit. The feedback was that ‘mental health first aid kit’ didn’t quite work – for some it was too wordy, for others it didn’t make sense. It could also sound a bit too medical or stigmatising. Other suggestions included a ‘coping toolbox’, a ‘feel better box’, ‘time out’… we never quite found something that everybody liked, so each kit will have its own unique moniker!