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Brighton & Sussex Medical School



HOPEFUL - Developing a ‘hopeful’ intervention to improve outcomes among young women who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) and living in coastal communities

The HOPEFUL project is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Public Health Research (PHR) programme. The project is funded by an Application Development Award. This type of award is designed so that research teams can understand under-studied health problems and at-risk groups in more detail before developing bigger projects that look at potential solutions.

Click here to download the young women’s project flyer >

Click here to download the relative/carers project flyer >

Watch the video below on some of the outcomes for this project.

Why does the project focus on NEET young women?  

About 10% of 16-24-year-olds in the UK are not in employment, education or training (NEET). They have worse mental health and fewer life chances than young people who are studying, in paid work or volunteering. There are more NEET young women than NEET young men and NEET young women are more likely to be bullied, harassed, socially isolated, and to experience domestic abuse. We know that NEET young people struggle to access mental health services. We also know that there is a lack of evidence about how to improve mental health and life in general for young women who are NEET. 

In other research, young people with mental health problems have benefited from programmes that increase hopefulness. “Hopefulness” is a particular way of thinking that helps people to identify and achieve their goals. NEET young women are known to struggle with hopefulness. This means that NEET young women may go on to experience better mental health and life outcomes if we can help them to identify meaningful goals, make plans to achieve those goals, and become more motivated for change.

Why does the project focus on coastal communities?

The environment in which people live contributes greatly to their health and wellbeing. There are large inequalities in people’s health within the UK that are related to differences in geography, wealth and ethnicity.

Coastal communities have become a focus of national interest in recent years. Locally, the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration in Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC-KSS) emphasises the need to understand and respond to the significant social deprivation in coastal towns across the region, and the distinctive needs of local marginalised groups. 

Why does the project focus on hopefulness?

Infographic to explain how self-agency and pathways result in a meaningful goalAs a research team, we have a long-standing interest in hopefulness and its importance for young people’s mental health. We ran a project in 2020 that reviewed all the evidence we could find about hopefulness as an ‘active ingredient’ in the treatment of young people with depression. The following short video describes this project and provides information about what hopefulness is.

Hopefulness is particularly important to consider for NEET young women because research suggests that:

  • Young women who are NEET can struggle to feel hopeful - both generally and about re/starting work or study
  • This group have low expectations for their futures
  • More hope is associated with young women being less likely to remain NEET over time

What is the HOPEFUL project? 

The hopeful project will help us to plan a short, hopeful and goal-focused programme based on supportive discussions and activities. It will be delivered by trained people from local communities, in safe and familiar spaces. A low-cost programme like this could have positive impacts on the mental health and life chances of NEET young women across many different settings. 

Our project aims to: 

  1. Understand how the mental health and social conditions of NEET young women affect their needs and preferences for a hope-focused programme
  2. Decide how, where, and by whom the programme should be delivered
  3. Describe how the programme might positively affect the lives of NEET young women on a large-scale

For aim 1, we will interview NEET young women, their family members, and people working in services and community organisations that currently support NEET young women. For aim 2, we will run one or more youth workshops in which we show and discuss other programmes that increase hopefulness (which we have in our previous work). For aim 3, we will run a workshop with local services and community organisations. We will ask them how a new hope-focused programme could reach and improve outcomes for large numbers of NEET young women in the short- and longer-term.

We will do the research across Sussex and Kent. Where possible, information from young people will be collected by trained peer researchers. They will use their lived experience and local knowledge to help interviewees speak openly about their needs and preferences. 

The research will produce: 

  • An intervention manual that describes how to deliver and measure the outcomes of the intervention
  • A model showing how different parts of the intervention can bring about short- and long-term outcomes
  • A network of public services and community organisations committed to supporting future collaborative research

We will share the findings through the NIHR Applied Health Collaboration in Kent, Surrey and Sussex, with target audiences including local authorities, community organisations, NEET young women, family members, and the general public in the research sites and more widely.

After the project, we will seek more funding to:

  1. Test that it is possible to offer the intervention and to run a trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention
  2. Evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention and whether it offers value for money 

The intervention will have the potential to reach a large number of NEET young women at a relatively low cost. We think that it could become a routine activity in many settings. This could mean that trusted adults or peers may be able to intervene quite quickly to help NEET young women to develop a more hopeful mindset that facilitates personally meaningful goals in the short-term, and can reduce mental ill-health and promote social re-engagement in the longer-term. 

Who are the research team?

The project is delivered by a team with backgrounds in clinical and social psychology, public health medicine, and patient and public involvement (PPI). The project will involve peer researchers. The project is jointly led by Dr Daniel Michelson and Dr Clio Berry, with co-investigators Professor Lindsay Forbes and Julia Fountain. Several peer researchers are involved in the project. These are people with their own lived experiences of being and/or supporting NEET young women. 



Where can I find out more?

To read more about our 2020 project on hopefulness as an active ingredient in youth mental health treatment, please see the project website and the published article:

To read some of our previous work on hopefulness and NEET young people, please see the following:

To ask for more information about the project or to consider whether you might be able to get involved, email the study co-ordinator Leanne Bogen-Johnston (E: or Dr Clio Berry (E: