In their first group podcast, five members of the NeurOX Young People’s Advisory Group (Eve, Sophie, Peter, Caitlin and Clara) chat and reflect on joining the group, talk about what in-person and digital YPAG sessions are like, what’s really stood out for them, and how it has helped them individually.
EVE: Welcome to the YPAG podcast. Today a few of us are going to be talking about our experiences in YPAG.
My name’s Eve, my pronouns are she/her and I joined YPAG this year, so I’m one of the newest members.
SOPHIE: Hello, my name Sophie. My pronouncers she/her. I’m nineteen and I’ve been in YPAG for three or four years now, so quite a long time.
CLARA: Well, my name is Clara. I use she/her pronouns. I’m sixteen and I’ve been in YPAG for around three years.
CAITLIN: Hi, I (Caitlin) use she/they pronouns, and I think I’ve been in YPAG for about three or four years now. Who knows?
PETER: Hi, I’m Peter. I’m eighteen. I think I’ve also been in YPAG three years. He pronoun.
EVE: So today we were going to be talking about why we first joined ypag, how our first experiences were and how we’re finding it, and then we’re going to talk about what’s changed and what we’ve gained from our experiences. So why did you all join YPAG?
CAITLIN: I just saw like an ad on instagram and I was like, Oh, I’ve got this Saturday free and kind of I have an interest in research and mental health and that type of thing, so I just thought see what it is, have a go, and it ended up being just really fun to do basically and kind of during lockdown. It was something to focus on and kind of put your energy into because there wasn’t a lot of things to do.
SOPHIE: To be honest, I was the same. I saw like an ad about it at school. I was like I’ll sign up and see if I get it, because I kind of just assumed hundreds of people would sign up to be hard to get it. I remember hearing back and being like this is your first session, because, oh my gosh, I’ve actually got it that I’ve got to go to this session. But it was really good and really exciting and like now I’ve been here like four years, I was just going by.
CLARA: I had similar reasons. I saw an ad in my school newspaper and I thought, you know, this could be fun. Might be cool to work with Oxford University and it’s always nice to meet new people, get some new friends. And then I turned up the first Saturday and, you know, we kind of worked on different activities and it was really nice kind of people listening to what you had to say and to talk about mental health, and that was kind of my first experience.
PETER: My older sister had been a part of the group already and she was one of the more like senior YPAGers at the time, and she reviewed it very positively worked on some really cool projects. And I’d seen like a promotional video of some sort that she’s been a part of, which look really cool. So, I was basically waiting till I was old enough to apply it and they did a recruitment round.
EVE: All of my first sessions are online, which was interesting, but I’ve been really looking forward to eventually meeting people in person. I first found out about why YPAG through Vanessa, who’s one of the organizers, and I’m actually on a hockey team with her, and she found my podcast and just mentioned it to me and yeah, and then I just kind of joined. I didn’t know YPAG existed. So it’s been a really good experience. So what were your first sessions like when you first joined?
CLARA: My First Session, I think I’ve only had two in person sessions, but my first session was in person, and I went to the university and we were all kind of sitting around on different tables. We had different activities and we went from one to the other discussing different things. One of them was you kind of had to test out a website. Another one you had to look at a dilemma to do with mental health, and we were discussing with researchers as kind of different things. And it was really fun to kind of collaborate and talk with people that had similar interests in mental health and stuff that I didn’t talk about much with my friends at school and things. And it was really nice, especially for me, that researchers took our comments seriously and they were really listening to us, and that was one of the first things that really stood out to me about what I really enjoyed it.
CAITLIN: I think I went to the same first session as Clara and I think Sophie as well, and maybe also Peter, so are all going to say the same thing. But yeah, we went to Oxford Uni, and I remember like I got lost like trying to get to the place because it was in the middle of like a random room, and you like went to the front desk and they’re like, oh, yes, it’s in the eighth corridor, and I remember just being like what is the eighth corridor? But when I got there everyone was just really nice, like everyone was really chilled, like it was just, as Clara said, just great to talk to people and for these researchers to kind of actually be listening to you.
And I think as it’s progressed, you know, it’s so much led by the young people that it’s just it’s not really serious. I think that’s the main thing, is that people think it’s like really scary, when it’s not. It’s just having a chat with different people about what you think.
SOPHIE: Yeah, I agree, like we do like have a serious topic because and we do use some big projects, but they never feel like stressful or overwhelming. They’re normally quite like calm or if you are struggling like you do, just message Vanessa or someone and be like, Oh, can I have some help with this? So I don’t really know what that means. Which is really nice. How relaxed it is.
PETER: My impression of the first session was that it was like they were more trying to get us to get to know each other and be comfortable and have a nice time then get any serious work done. So it was just very informal. We played pool, like there’s plenty of time to chat to the other young people. They gave us food and just kind of explained everything that was going on and it was obviously like quite fun and just very, very informal and relaxed, like the others said. So I imagine it would be similar for the first meeting in the next recruitment round.
But I remember like at the end like looking forward to the next session of being like this is something I really want to like follow up or like by the next session I was like less stressed because I knew everyone or like there was probably What’s App chat created. So I think it was a bit more like, you know, you could go to on the bus, there was someone or something like that.
EVE: So how has YPAG shaped you guys since it started and how has YPAG changed?
CAITLIN: I think I’m a lot more confident in terms of like expressing my opinion on things. I think you know, with young people, if you say something, even if you know loads about a topic, if you say something about that topic, I don’t feel like people inherently trust you or they don’t think that you know your opinion all the things that you think about things are very valid. And I think being in YPAG and kind of getting the positive feedback from the researchers and just having an opportunity to get better at explaining myself and kind of talking about these complex ideas really just helps you express yourself in other ways. So you know, you can have conversations with people who are a lot older than you and hold your ground because you know, you know that you know what you’re talking about. And I think it’s just good to be kind of able to back stuff up and be like yes, I’m saying X, Y Z about mental health. Here’s a background that I actually have you know. I’ve helped people with research papers and, you know, made materials and stuff. Um. Yeah, I think that’s kind of the best way that they’ve helped me.
CLARA: Yeah, I think I would say something kind of similar. I think it really helped me in terms of confidence and also communication, because sometimes we kind of go off into little groups and then we have to be able to communicate what we’ve talked about back to the researchers. And, you know, you learn how to talk about things, how to collaborate with your peers. So you learn a lot about teamwork as well. And yeah, I think you just really know that the work that you’re doing does have an impact and the people are listening to you and that does give you a lot of confidence.
SOPHIE: I’m similar like never in the past would I like ever think about like even doing this or like doing blogs or like speaking in front of big groups. But now, like I definitely think I would be able to more because of YPAG. Yes, so it’s definitely just made me more confident and kind of more able to express my views and opinions, because in the past I kind of just think them but wouldn’t actually tell people them. So it’s definitely like made me better at that.
PETER: I’d say, like what the others have said, and also I’d had kind of like change my perception of research, because I feel like by default it was Um. I just kind of saw it as like, I guess, like lab coats and test tubes kind of thing, whereas this is um it’s kind of showing how you can use the scientific method and processes social sciences and things like young person young person’s mental health. So that’s been really interesting.
CAITLIN: Yeah, going of what Peter said, I think just in terms of like practical skills. Um, I did a like a what we did a work experience week last summer Um, and I remember like we got taught about, you know, different data analysis and how you would do that, and like we did a project with the NSPCC for childline and we were doing all this thematic analysis and being able to say that you can do that and you understand that. I think no matter what you go on to study just gives you such such a better perspective on it all and it also means that it looks really cool on your CV because now I can be like yeah, I can do qualitative analysis. Um, yeah. I just think you get so many skills that you don’t even realize that you’re learning, but you are.
PETER: Yeah, on the CV point, like, given that it’s been lockdown, there’s barely anyone our age, I think, who’s had this kind of thing that they’ve been able to do and like apply for university with it on their personal statement. But because we’ve had this and it’s all been online, we’ve managed to keep doing it. I feel like it’s quite a unique thing that we’ve benefited from
CLARA: And I think that that’s also one of the ways in which we’ve shaped YPAG because YPAG gives us a lot. But since we’ve started there’s been a pandemic and the entire system of the YPAG has changed. And I don’t think that before we were really doing zoom calls, and online work, and now we’ve got kind of a website and an instagram page for YPAG. So it has really changed. It keeps on changing
SOPHIE: Or I guess that it being online means we can speak to researchers anywhere in the country or like if we’re all at university or like abroad, we can also join the zoom calls and take part, whereas if it was in person it would just be much more difficult. Or like we’re speaking to researchers like at Nottingham university, which we wouldn’t be able to do in person unless they traveled very far or we traveled up to them.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I think you can kind of see. You know, I think people have been here since the pandemic started. We’ve gotten so much better at doing stuff online. But I think just you know, the way that we’ve shaped the YPAG is so clear, because everything the YPAG does is because we want to do it. It’s not like Vanessa and researchers are coming to us and they’re saying, right, we’re going to do X, Y Z, you guys need to set up a website and you need to do this. It’s a lot more kind of they’ll come to us with how do you think we can reach more people, and then that is then based off our ideas, our perspectives on things, and it feels so collaborative. That I think, I don’t know, I can’t put into words the different ways that you kind of how different it is to just being told to do a survey, um, and how much more our opinions are very much validated and taken into consideration and that type of thing.
EVE: So do you all think YPAG has helped you with what you want to do in the future?
SOPHIE: I think definitely, like it’s made me more aware of mental health and, like researchers have common spoken to us a lot about different type of mental health disorders or like anti-depressants. It’s definitely made me more aware of that or like different treatments and kind of we saw like when antidepressants we use more or less. So I found that really interesting and it’s also in other ways that it’s made me work as a group better. Has improved my communication kind of. I cannot argue someone’s point, but if I disagree with someone’s opinion, you kind of say, Oh, actually, I think this and so definitely like that would be good in a work environment in the future as well.
CLARA: Yeah, I think it helps me a lot as well in terms of just knowing a bit more about research. I don’t particularly want to go into mental health related areas, but being able to see, Um, like a research project go from start to finish and seeing kind of how long that takes and the thought and the planning that has to go into that. You know, applying for grants to kind of writing academic papers, and press releases. Like it’s a really long process and I know so much more about that now, Um, and also just in terms of skills that I’ve learned along the way. I think it’s taught me a lot.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I mean I’m currently studying politics and philosophy, so nothing to do with research, but I just think that understanding where the research comes from, it changes the way you you think about things and, for example, when you know we’re in the middle of the pandemic, they could say, okay, the R number is this and I think because of the YPAG and because of our understanding of research, you can know a bit more about that. You know what’s gone into that and you know how that process works. We’re normal people. It’s not like any of us had any background in this. It’s not like we were raised to do research and give our opinions on things. I think it’s just you know, has improved us all so much in such a short time.
EVE: Thank you all of you for joining me today and I hope anyone listening has a really good week.