Participatory research is collaborative and democratic, and may be particularly engaging for vulnerable or so-called hard-to-reach groups. In this paper, we describe three creative participatory projects carried out over five years with young people and NHS, social care and third sector partners. Working with young people in care we co-produced a trilogy of films, one of which won the young people a British Film Institute (BFI) award. The films are now used for training throughout the UK. With young people with experience of depression, we coproduced a short, animated film which aimed to offer support to other young people who may be depressed and not know where to turn. Finally, with young people attending or leaving NHS child and adolescent mental health services, we co-produced a transition preparation programme for those leaving the service at 17 or 18. For all the projects, the aim was to maximize involvement and give young people some ownership of the research. We outline our approach and describe some of the challenges and limitations.