A message of hope

Behind the scenes of 'Girls on the Edge', to be screened tonight on BBC Two.

Two and a half years of discussions, research and filming have led to an hour-long, one-off observational documentary, to be broadcast on Thursday 22 February on BBC Two at 9pm.

Entitled Girls on the Edge, the programme follows three families whose daughters have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act to protect them from harming themselves. The teenagers are all being cared for at FitzRoy House in Northampton.

The St Andrew's Healthcare website says: 'The documentary explores the impact their illness has had on them and their families, all told in their own words with directness, courage and raw honesty.'

Approached by production company Dragonfly in 2015, after 'a robust, thought-out and considered decision-making process – with input from both our patients and staff – we granted Dragonfly access to film a one-off, hour-long programme about teenage life in secure care. We let the small, two-person film crew into FitzRoy House – a place where visitors aren’t usually allowed to bring a mobile phone, let alone a camera. Taking part in the documentary wasn't something we took lightly; there was a rigorous three-step consent process for our patients, and we worked closely with Dragonfly to ensure both our patients and staff felt comfortable and confident being part of it. Each of the girls had similar reasons for taking part in the programme, and all felt that by sharing their stories they could help other young people who are struggling with their mental health.'

We spoke to Anne McLean, Lead Consultant Clinical & Forensic Psychologist in Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services:

Were you pleased with the finished programme, and if so why?
We were very pleased with the programme as we felt it allowed the young people the opportunity to share their experiences and difficulties and effectively conveyed how we as a service try to support them to progress towards their longer term goals, like successfully reintegrating into the community, picking up on their education and family life. It also allowed families to share the challenges in having a child in hospital.

Your website talks of four main areas of focus:

1. Mental health recovery and reducing risk: including DBT, CBT, offence-related therapy, family interventions and medication optimisation

2. Improved physical wellbeing: including self-care, weight management, sports and exercise therapy, physiotherapy

3. Maximising independence: including vocational pathways, animal therapy and incremental increases in responsibility

4. Achieving full potential and meaningful outcomes: including social work interventions and spiritual care

Of these, do you feel there is one area which was particularly important to portray in the programme?
We felt it was particularly important to portray how timely interventions can help the young person to reach their full potential and the outcome which is meaningful for them. All the young people featured in the programme wanted to be supported to maintain their family relationships and regain independence as quickly as possible. It was important to communicate to young people watching who might be struggling with similar issues (and their families) a message of hope, that there is help available and they should seek support. The young people who took part in the programme wanted to share their stories to raise awareness of the issues facing many young people.

How is the treatment of these young people changing? 
We are definitely seeing more referrals. This is likely a combination of the increased difficulties young people face (e.g. cyberbullying) and the pressures being experienced by community CAMHS services.

- Find out more and watch on iPlayer.

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