An award-winning film company is to produce its next documentary in collaboration with the University of Sunderland aimed at tackling difficult decisions young people make.

TryLifeTV creates interactive educational films designed to educate young people on the consequences of their actions, taking on issues such as mental health, sexual exploitation, knife crime, drug use, loneliness, poverty and violence.

The company produces films and stories that engage with the lived experience of young people, using a youth work approach to enable young people to explore the outcomes of day to day choices and decisions and the consequences of them.

TryLifeTV director Paul Irwin, a former youth worker, has so far created four interactive films with a further three in development.

He turned to the University to support his next project – focusing on young people’s mental health and pregnancy, funded by the regional North East and North Cumbria’s Integrated Care System’s child health and well-being network (CHWBN) and the Perinatal Mental Health Network.

Paul, originally from North Tyneside, was heading down the wrong path until a youth worker, a University of Sunderland graduate, helped him turn his life around.

Paul said: “I’m so excited to be back in the region creating our next interactive film.

“This next episode will cover teenage pregnancy and mental health as the main themes.

“Austerity has meant severe cuts to services for young people but we still need to engage with them about serious health and social issues.

“When we created TryLife we didn’t anticipate how quickly it would spread on social media.

“We now have 7,100,000 on Facebook and are reaching 188,000,000 people on social media some weeks.

“TryLife’s global success has taken us around the world, even to Hollywood where we are creating an interactive project in South Central with the producer of Bladerunner.

Trylife’s latest film will be produced at Sunderland’s campus, engaging students from a range of disciplines who will have an input into the subject on perinatal mental health, covering a range of stories from the importance of breast feeding and available support services, to the realities for young women in care dealing with pregnancy, young fathers and parenting, to disability and parenthood.

As part of the University’s cross-faculty collaboration on the project, academics have also been funded to produce an impact study and evaluation of the film once it is finished in spring next year.

Paul said: “This is the perfect opportunity to get on board with this production. We’re looking for raw talent in acting, music and film production to help create the latest episode.

“We also need support from professionals to help shape the issues covered within.”

Dr Rick Bowler alongside Dr Amina Razak in the Faculty of Education and Society and Associate Professor, Dr Caroline Mitchell from the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries have been leading this project on behalf of the University.

Rick said: “We are delighted to be enabling Paul’s latest film production. This is an interdisciplinary youth work, community media and public health approach to tackle the realities of perinatal mental health and young people.

“It has led to a University-wide involvement alongside a wider regional partnership. All those involved recognise the importance of getting out public health messages.

“This documentary will be an important educational resource for young people, who can identify with the various storylines.”

He added: “I believe Paul and his team offer an ethical approach to making films that takes cognisance of not exploiting or commodifying young people.

“The films tell stories about situations young people do find themselves in, however uncomfortable they are for the rest of us.

“Paul Irwin has a participative approach in making these films. For our own students, studying youth work, social work, creative writing, performance art, education, digital media and health, this presents engagement with industry alongside learning opportunities within an interdisciplinary approach to young people led solutions to public health concerns.”

Mike McKean, CHWBN Clinical Lead, said “I’m delighted the film focuses on mental health as our network members identified this as their top priority, and it is being delivered in a way that is relevant to our young people of today.”

Heather Corlett, CHWBN Programme Manager, added: “We are delighted to see this innovative approach to engage young people and professionals take shape.

“It demonstrates real integrated working. We have already worked with partners across the system and that approach continues with Paul’s connection to the University of Sunderland – a great way to ultimately improve outcomes for our young people together.”

The CHWBN believes that ‘all children and young people should be given the opportunity to flourish and reach their potential and be advantaged by organisations working together’ and is working hard to develop an active membership to come together to tackle its priority areas.

To find out more about TrylifeTV click here .

To find out more about the CHWBN click here

@wearcyw @trylifetv @NorthNetChild