Blending creativity with technology to tackle trauma in young people

28 June 2021
Dance Female Sitting Stretch Calex Faulkner 1

Academic researchers from Oxford University have teamed up with Falmouth University to deliver ATTUNE, a 4-year programme which will combine artistic and scientific methods to mitigate the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in children and young people.    

ATTUNE will combine the expertise of several leading universities, charities and young people’s groups to work directly with young people.

The programme seeks to address the needs of 10-24 year-olds, meaning that the transition into university and employment are critical periods that the programme will also support.   

In tandem with a panel of young people, ATTUNE will explore how creative practices such as music, art, dance and storytelling can play a role in tackling trauma and multiple adversity. The study hopes to spark a change in the way mental health is understood and then addressed by community services. 

The study will use creative practices to help young people tell their stories and outline their preferences for treatment, leading to them co-designing new ways of providing help and care.

Their responses will then be mapped, synthesised, and compared to find impactful opportunities for protecting and promoting adolescents’ mental health.

After the initial stage of evidence-gathering, researchers and young participants will co-design a ‘serious game’ at Falmouth’s Games Academy. The game will test the potential of gaming technology in prevention and therapeutics for more personalized solutions to mental trauma.

The programme will look at ways of boosting participation and opportunities to reach young people who may be affected by rurality and a lack of available services aligned to their needs. 

The places in England where young people will become involved include Cornwall, Kent, Oxfordshire, London, and Yorkshire. The £3.8m project, funded by UK Research and Innovation, will work in partnership with several NGOs and youth groups.

Anna Mankee-Williams, Senior Research Fellow in Technology and Innovation in Health and Care at Falmouth University said:   

“Using arts as a therapeutic practice isn’t new - but blending technology, psychology and cutting-edge creative practice to develop products and services is a bold step. 

“It’s testament to our funders’ desire to foster new and experimental ways of reaching and helping the most vulnerable young people in society and we’re so pleased that this creative, collaborative work in tandem with Oxford University will help us sharpen our focus on the best ways of supporting young people who’ve experienced ACEs.  

Prof Kamaldeep Bhui CBE MD FRCPsych, Prof Psychiatry at Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry added:   

"I’m so delighted to be leading ATTUNE: a remarkable partnership between Department of Psychiatry at University of Oxford, a world leader in mental health research, and Falmouth University’s Games Academy and Creative Arts and Digital Health platforms, led by Professor Ma, Provost and Co-PI.   

"ATTUNE will listen to young people’s perspectives, and co-design prevention and care interventions. Using these exciting interdisciplinary methods, we aspire to transform social, education, health and care systems to provide therapeutic spaces and life opportunities for young people to flourish.” 

Nick Smith, CEO Young People Cornwall added:  

"Young people have told us that they're really interested in co-designing new approaches to improve the support for and better understand their mental health needs. At a time when many young people are struggling with their mental health we're looking forward to working with a host of partners across the country to enable young people living in Cornwall to participate in a project which we hope will have a positive impact on the long term mental health of our young people."

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