A new £35 million government-backed research programme into treatments for mental health problems among adolescents has been launched.
The research aims to give more support to teenagers experiencing poor mental health including disorders such as depression, anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders. Researchers will look at external tensions and genetics to ensure mental health problems are being treated as effectively as possible during adolescence, while the brain is still developing.
Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “Our teenage years can be the most fantastic of our life. But there are those for whom the teenage years are the most difficult. We know that in the UK, three quarters of those that will experience mental health problems will do so before they turn 24.”
“The £35 million government-backed research programme we are announcing today will look to better understand why so many teenagers face mental health problems, and how we can better support, detect and treat them,” she added.
One in eight children or young people in the UK are affected by mental health problems. Approximately three-quarters of children or young people who experience mental health problems will do so before the age of 24. Early intervention has a crucial role to play in ensuring young people have quicker, better access to support and treatments.
Over its five-year duration, the research – backed with £25m government funding – will look at how adolescents interact with the world, their biological background, their social relationships and achievements at school.
It is hoped that the project could lead to the early identification of vulnerable young people in schools and health services and better diagnosis, while exploring what makes some teenagers more susceptible to conditions than others.
Emma Thomas, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said: “This investment in research is hugely welcome. We know from young people we work with that the factors that can lead to poor mental health are often complex, but that difficult experiences at a young age – like bereavement, bullying or abuse – can have a huge impact. It’s really important that we have clear evidence about how the circumstances children grow up in affect their mental health, and about what forms of support make the most difference.
“While we undoubtedly need investment in NHS mental health services, we would also hope that this research would lead to further action across government and across society to address the crisis and make early support a priority,” Ms Thomas added.
The government has already pledged an extra £2.3 billion a year in the NHS Long Term Plan to enable 345,000 more children and young people to have better access to mental health support by 2023-24.
The government’s new health education curriculum will become mandatory in all schools from September 2020.