When clinical psychologist Dr Charlie Howard was working in an NHS mental health clinic, she noticed that there were back-to-back referrals for young offenders, but that none of this group were turning up for appointments. Knowing that 1 in 3 young people who offend have an unmet mental health need at the time of the offence, she thought there had to be a better way of delivering mental health services to those excluded young people.

It seemed like it had to start with how they access help. Charlie set out to spend time in a community and listen to what young people wanted; she knew they were the ones that could help her find a solution that worked for them.

Meeting them where they're at

So it was that a clinical psychologist stepped out of the clinic to spend months outside a fish and chip shop on an estate in North London, in a gang affected area where some young men often spent time. The group were at first suspicious of her, she was insulted, jeered and spat at, until one of the young men asked what she was doing there. Charlie started off by asking for the young man’s help. Together, in 2008, they set up a project called Music and Change, which led Dr Charlie Howard to go on to found the charity, MAC-UK.

One of those men, Mark Moubarack Chentite, helped Charlie bring other young people in. Together with other colleagues over the years, this has led MAC-UK to develop a successful approach called INTEGRATE, which engages youth people and supports their mental health.

1 in 3 young people who offend have an unmet mental health need at the time of the offence

Mine MAC and PAE

Mark has been working with MAC-UK since the beginning and in addition to working at Music and Change, has also set up and co-led Mini MAC (2011-2014) and PAE: Positive Adolescence Engagement (2014-2017). PAE was MAC-UK’s first peer-led intervention established to engage the  younger community aged 11 to 15 years old living in parts of Camden, North London.

Charlie keeps a role as MAC-UK’s Founder, though she has moved on to work across a number of other organisations, initiatives and policy areas which all connect around co-production and mental health. The common thread is a drive to transform public understanding of what it means to seek help.

The future of MAC

Our current CEO, Sinem Cakir, has continued to drive forward the work of MAC-UK. Today, MAC-UK has taken mental health to the streets through four community INTEGRATE projects across London, with our most recent partnership located in Haringey. Over those 4 projects, we have directly supported 700 young people by meeting them where they are at. Our work has had a big impact on the mental health landscape, with many reports and publications now citing the MAC-UK way as an effective approach (you can read some of these here).

We are continuing to work with services that wish to adopt and adapt the principles of INTEGRATE, to better engage, support and meet the mental health needs of excluded groups but our ultimate aim is to bring about systems change. You can read more about our vision for the future here and our 2020 strategy here.