From education to employment

Young people propose solutions to youth mental health crisis  

Students sat on steps looking at laptop

New research – led by 16- to 20-year-olds and conducted with 10- to 21-year-olds in England – highlights key concerns facing young people, and shares their vision for a healthier, happier post-Covid future.  

  • Research designed by a nationwide network of 59 16- to 20-year-olds explores post-Covid youth priorities and makes recommendations to target future funding   
  • 209 10- to 21-year-olds around England participated in the research 
  • Mental health is a key concern, with young people calling for greater awareness among teachers, improved access to counsellors, and a focus on information and education – both as a preventative measure, and to help young people find support when they need it  
  • This research was funded by The National Lottery Community Fund and coordinated by The Young Foundation  

New research, published today, shares insight into the concerns and priorities of people aged 16 to 21 around England, and outlines their vision for a better future.  

Designed and led by young people, the research identifies access to opportunities and greater support for mental health as key priorities. Young people around England hope that, in future, funding for youth services will be targeted to deliver greater awareness of mental health issues among teachers, more counsellors, and greater information and education for young people. They would like this change both as a preventative measure, and to help young people know where to find support that’s right for them when they need it.  

This project was co-ordinated by The Young Foundation, the UK’s home for community research and social innovation. It was driven by a £150,000 investment from The National Lottery Community Fund, which is the largest funder of community activity in the UK. The research itself was designed, co-ordinated and delivered by a new Youth-Led Peer Research Network of young people, which brought together young people with diverse backgrounds and experiences to conduct research into the post-pandemic priorities of their peers.  

Between November 2021 and January 2022, 45 members of the Network’s young peer researchers spoke to 209 10- to 21-year-olds around England, grouped into six regions: north-east and Cumbria; north-west; Yorkshire and Humber; Midlands; London, south-east and east; and south-west. The themes raised were:  

  • improving support for mental health  
  • ensuring access to opportunities that support their aspirations beyond education  
  • tackling poverty and hardship, and reducing inequalities  
  • improving and expanding access to local assets and facilities  
  • helping young people stay safe   

Weight given to each theme differed region by region but, nationwide, many spoke about their difficulties accessing mental health support, highlighting a lack of awareness among their peers of the support that is available. A 21-year-old woman from the London, south-east and east region commented “there’s no billboard signs, adverts, anything”.   

Across England, young people called for greater education around mental health, with a 19-year-old woman in the north-west, saying: “I think our mental health is something that we need to take care of, and we should [invest in] early intervention and educating people on self-care […] we shouldn’t wait until people are struggling and suicidal or really damaging themselves before we give them support.” A 17-year-old female in the south-west said: “where I live … mental health is very stigmatised … it’s just not the norm to get help for mental health”.  

The Young Foundation co-ordinated and ran the project, training Network members and working with them to co-design research.  

Helen Goulden, Chief Executive of The Young Foundation, says:

“What was clear, as this work unfolded, was that young people welcomed the invitation to articulate their views on the issues they see around them and were keen to engage in working towards a fairer future”.  

This project brought The Young Foundation together with the #iwill Fund – which is a £54m joint investment between The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – and The National Lottery Community Fund’s ‘Young People in the Lead’ work.  

Helen Whyman, Head of the #iwill Fund at The National Lottery Community Fund, says:

“Placing young people at the heart of this research and hearing from them directly has been essential in understanding their needs across England. Thanks to National Lottery players and the openness of the participants, we can use this information to help young people and the organisations supporting them to navigate funding opportunities going forward, to find solutions to the problems they spotlight.”  

The aim of this work is to increase understanding of youth priorities to guide funding and investment. Results are already being shared with funders, delivery organisations and youth organisations, so they can embed learnings into their work and use them to inform future decisions.  

Goulden concludes: “At The Young Foundation, we see the rise and rise of participatory research, where people with a connection to, or experience of, the issues being addressed are at the helm. Here, we see the success of that approach writ large. The honesty of the young people interviewed in this report delivers rare and precious insights that can help drive meaningful change for generations to come.”  

Read the report here.

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