Enable Recite
Skip to main content

Innovative approach to supporting teenage pregnancy and mental health

An innovative educational film to support young people to tackle life’s difficult decisions has being launched in the North East and North Cumbria by the Child Health and Wellbeing Network (CHWN), Perinatal Mental Health Network and William Howard School.

‘Jessica’s Story’ is an interactive film that looks at the real-life challenges faced by young people experiencing pregnancy and the possible consequences of their actions which can have far reaching effects.

The film gives young people the opportunity to pause the action at key moments and make-a-decision. They can then see in action the consequences and impact of that choice as it’s played out in the film.

Funded by the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System (NENC ICS) and commissioned by the William Howard School based in Cumbria, the project aims to help improve long-standing cycles of lifestyle choices which can have negative impacts on wider health issues by better supporting young people dealing with pregnancy.

The CHWN, which is a network of over 900 professionals from across the region, includes clinicians, police and youth and education workers all working to support children and young people. Teams involved in mental health, maternity and perinatal mental health worked collectively to provide the appropriate advice and guidance on key issues that affect young people in our region to help direct the storyline.

Mike McKean, clinical lead, NENC CHWN said; “We know under 16 conception rates over time are not falling in any of our local authority areas unlike the average for England. And also, in five of our local authority areas under 16 conception rates are significantly higher than the average in England.

“Reducing teenage pregnancy requires comprehensive coordinated support from a wide range of professionals to critically think through the challenges and support options needed.

“This project focusing on teenage pregnancy and mental health has already been welcomed by educational and youth workers as an insightful resource to aid discussion on difficult topics. Supporting young people’s mental health is a priority for us so it’s important to have resources available which can be delivered in a way that is relevant to our young people.”

The film has been developed and produced by TryLifeTV – an award winning, north east film production company that sets itself apart from traditional film companies. It creates interactive educational films designed to educate young people on the consequences of their actions, taking on issues such as mental health, sexual exploitation, knife crime, drug use, loneliness, poverty and violence.

The company produces films and stories that engage with the lived experience of young people, using a youth work approach to enable young people to explore the outcomes of day to day choices and decisions and the consequences of them.

TryLifeTV director Paul Irwin from North Shields was himself a teenage parent and later a youth worker. Speaking about the ‘Jessica Story’ Paul said: “I know at first-hand how difficult it is to be a young parent, and I also know at that age if I’d been told to do something I wouldn’t have listened. That’s why our films give young people the opportunity to explore for themselves and experiment in a safe environment, letting them see the consequences of their choices.

“It is important young people are given the opportunity to learn for themselves and that’s what ‘TryLife’ is all about. We also signpost the user to other information sites for any issue they encounter so they can get the advice they need.”

All the cast and crew of ‘Jessica’s Story’ are local young people from the North East and North Cumbria who were given the opportunity through various development workshops to get involved in scripting, producing and acting in the film.

One young person involved in the project is Laura Northmore. A student at the University of Sunderland, she was asked to join a discussion group and share her experiences as a person with disabilities to help develop ideas for the film.  She helped write part of the script and also acts in the film.

Laura said: “People with disabilities get pregnant too and I wanted to make sure those experiences were featured to help support others.”

Chris McAree, head teacher, William Howard School said; “To present young people with a visual presentation of realistic life-style challenges they could face and the possible consequences of their actions can really help equip young people to see the future ahead for themselves.

“Supporting those who are pregnant with a dedicated resource can help improve future outcomes for them and their child whilst supporting their mental health.

In addition to the resources available for young people a ‘TryLearning’ resource has also been developed to help those people working with young people get the most out of this interactive educational resource, this is available to CHWN members.

An impact study and evaluation of the film has also been commissioned as part of the project to understand the impact of the film on young people’s wellbeing.

Jessica’s Story along with other TryLife films are freely available to anyone aged over 13 years. You can view them here.

We use cookies on our website to give you the most relevant experience by remembering your preferences and repeat visits. By clicking Accept, you consent to the use of all cookies.

Back to top