Children and Families Policy Research Unit


NIHR Children and Families Policy Research Unit


How I cope: a young person's guide

Strategies and sources of support that young people use in difficult times.

Described by over 70 young people as part of the HeadStart research project and developed for this guide by the HeadStart National Young People’s Group.

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Started in 2016, HeadStart is a six-year, £67.4 million National Lottery funded programme set up by The National Lottery Community Fund. HeadStart aims to explore and test new ways to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people aged 10-16 and prevent serious mental health issues from developing.

The HeadStart Learning Team interviewed over 70 young people in 2017-19 about their experiences of coping and receiving support in difficult times. All of the young people were attending schools delivering the HeadStart programme. The HeadStart Learning Team analysed the young people’s interviews and developed themes to capture the different types of coping strategies and sources of support that young people described drawing on.

The HeadStart Learning Team presented the themes to the HeadStart National Young People’s Group in 2021 and asked for the group’s help to give names and descriptions to each of the themes. The group also helped the HeadStart Learning Team to decide how best to present the themes to other young people. This led to the creation of a guide for young people called: How I cope: a young person's guide.

Download the PDF poster:

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For further ideas about self-care developed with young people, please see annafreud.org/selfcare.



With thanks to the young people who shared their experiences with the HeadStart Learning Team in interviews as part of the HeadStart research project, which formed the foundation for this guide.

With thanks to the HeadStart National Young People’s Group, facilitated by Rachel Piper, Youth Engagement Officer at CORC, for leading on the development of the guide and for helping us to find new ways of sharing our research findings.

With thanks to Anna Betts for creating the guide and for bringing our ideas to life.

The HeadStart Learning Team is led by Jessica Deighton and its Qualitative Research Team is led by Emily Stapley. With thanks to the Qualitative Research Team (Ola Demkowicz, Mia Eisenstadt, Rosa Town, Alisha O’Neill, Sarah Stock, and Parise Carmichael-Murphy) for their vital role in the collection, management, and analysis of data used to inform our research publications and this output.

The HeadStart Learning Team’s national evaluation of HeadStart is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. The development of this guide was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Policy Research Programme. The views expressed in the guide are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care, or The National Lottery Community Fund.


The findings that this guide was developed from have been published in the following reports: 

Stapley, E., Stock, S., Deighton, J. & Demkowicz, O. (2022). A qualitative study of how adolescents’ use of coping strategies and support varies in line with their experiences of adversity. Child & Youth Care Forum.

Stapley, E., Eisenstadt, M., Demkowicz, O., Garland, L., Stock, S., & Deighton, J. (2020). Shining a light on risk and protective factors: Young people’s experiences. London: EBPU. 

Stapley, E., Demkowicz, O., Eisenstadt, M., Wolpert, M., & Deighton, J. (2020). Coping with the stresses of daily life in England: A qualitative study of self-care strategies and social and professional support in early adolescence. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 40, 605-632.

Stapley, E. & Deighton, J. (2018). HeadStart year 1: National Qualitative Evaluation Findings - Young People’s Perspectives. London, England: CAMHS Press.

Read more about the research project.

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