Working with the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust

What can a GP do in just a short consultation for a teenager who appears depressed? It may seem an impossible question until you meet Maryanne Freer.

Maryanne is a psychiatrist who travels up and down the country teaching clinicians how to recognise and treat mental health issues in young people. This training is funded by the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust (CWMT), named for Charlie, who died at a young age because of an unrecognised mental health problem. His family have created this charity to help professionals intervene early and help prevent other young people suffering Charlie's tragic fate.

Last month Connecting Care for Children (CC4C) got together with CWMT to run workshops for GPs, paediatricians and children's clinical nurse specialists (who look after young people with long term conditions such as diabetes or HIV). CC4C aims to connect professionals, helping them to understand each other's expertise and use that for the benefit of the patient. Learning through case discussion is a great way to connect, so we were very excited to see what would happen.

Maryanne used three cases to get us deliberating: the first a withdrawn young person, a second who was binge-drinking and a third with emerging psychosis. It was soon clear that each delegate brought a unique and valuable perspective to these case discussions; quickly everyone started to learn from each other.

Did it work? We asked delegates to tell us what they might do differently as a result of the training. This is what they said:

  • “Will try and use the tools to keep my patients in primary care”
  • “We’ll use the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) framework & online resources (especially the self-harm info from students against depression). Will also order some parent leaflets”
  • “I will be able to use a more structured approach and have a usable prior knowledge to pass on to families/patients”
  • “The CBT tool sheet will help with some patients in formulating and structuring discussions giving them something to keep and own”
  • “Have more discussions with team, parents about mental health to normalise and engage openness”
  • “Utilise and support team and parents to use online tools and resource”
  • “Signposting to self-help websites. Signposting to parent skills counselling”
  • “Like the idea of homework for the teenager to do and then to see them again”

Clearly the workshops had a powerful positive effect on the way people approach mental health in their practice. For my part, I’ll be using the mental health consultation framework on page 20 of the CWMT GP toolkit when I am working with young people. I’m looking forward to seeing it in action.