What is We Can Talk?

We Can Talk is working to improve the experiences of young people who attend hospital due to their mental health and the staff who support them. Coproduced with young people with lived experience, hospital staff and mental health experts, We Can Talk is working to change the culture of acute hospitals through community building and training.

We Can Talk is led by People Unlimited, a social enterprise working to transform the way the world feels about mental health. Their work seeks to amplify the voices of young people with lived experience of mental health, and supports partnerships with NHS trusts across England using funding from NHS England and other national and regional bodies. People Unlimited has won multi award for their work on the We Can Talk project since 2017 as well as featured in a variety of media.

Why is We Can Talk needed?

“I will not go up there anymore, because I feel like such a time waster. I just want to go home, hide under the duvet and die of shame” 

43% of young people wouldn’t go back to A&E for mental health support because of a bad previous experience (National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, 2004). These bad experiences mean that they are less likely to cope on discharge and increases the risk of reattendance (CQC, 2015

Meanwhile, hospital staff working in acute care settings consistently report a lack of confidence and competency in caring for children with mental health needs.  That’s why we created We Can Talk, to create change and improve the experience for everyone.

How does We Can Talk work?

We Can Talk co-produced with hospital staff, mental health experts and children and young people with lived experience of presenting to hospital in a mental health crisis, against an evidenced-based educational competency framework in children and young people’s mental health based on the We Can Talk principles. We then created our We Can Talk Core Curriculum training, which is designed to improve the knowledge, skills and confidence of any member of staff (from porter to paediatrician) who see children and young people in their role. This may be in their clinical or non-clinical positions whilst working in paediatric or adult hospital settings.  

We recognise that education is only part of what is needed to support organisations to create change and so as part of the We Can Talk project partner organisations are supported to build a community of practice locally and to undertake Quality Improvement initiatives with their child and adolescent mental health service partners. Find out more about the organisations we are already supporting to create change and learn more about our plans to Change the Future by downloading our information slidedeck. 

For those organisations who are not yet part of the We Can Talk family, staff can still access training to improve their knowledge, skills and confidence in supporting young people in mental health crisis by completing the We Can Talk fundamentals of compassionate care learning module by signing up for a free account. This training has been accessed by more than 15,000 people and shortlisted for the 2021 Royal College of Nursing awards, Nursing Times Awards and Nursing Times Workforce Awards.

The impact of We Can Talk

Since 2017 we have trained more than 10,000 staff:

  • 99%  report it will make a difference to the way they do their job
  • 99%  recommend us to a colleague
  • Significant improvements in confidence (76%-100%) and knowledge (76%-98%)

We have produced a one-page summary of the We Can Talk project as well as a slidedeck on how we are looking to Change the Future for every child and young person who attends hospital due to their mental health.

You can also download the independent training impact analysis completed by the Child Outcomes Research Consortium (CORC) for our delivery of the We Can Talk Core Curriculum training across Kent, Surrey and Sussex for nearly 500 hospital staff and the We Can Talk Core Curriculum training nationally for more than 10,000 hospital staff.



You can learn more about how we developed We Can Talk and the impact it has had locally by downloading our  pilot project report from our work with Barts Health NHS Trust.  Our work with Barts Health was nominated for a Nursing Times Award, showcased in a short film, featured at the NHS Innovation Expo and NHS Providers showcase and recognised by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) as an area of outstanding practice and “the only programme of its kind within the NHS” (CQC, 2019).