Poor mental health among young people is on the rise in the UK, while access to support and treatment remains patchy. There is now a pressing need to build resilience in young people to minimise their risk of poor mental health later on, as our latest report argues.
There are 12.5m young people in England, and one in ten will experience poor mental health. Half of all lifelong mental health problems start before the age of 14, but only one in four young people uses mental health services. An extra 23,800 staff, at a cost of £1.77 billion, is needed so that every young person who needs mental health support can get it. In the short term, though, this is unrealistic.
To address this treatment gap, we need to invest in building young people’s resilience in order to minimise their risk of developing poor mental health in the first place. A recent study from Wales showed that people with high resilience in childhood are less than half as likely to develop a mental health condition, compared with those who have low resilience during childhood. The early years, before the age of 18, are the best time to build resilience as it provides lifelong mental health benefits.
Resilience is the ability to deal with life’s challenges and stresses in a healthy and positive way. This involves drawing on personal resources, such as the ability to manage anxiety and negative thoughts, as well as social resources, such as having positive relationships with family, friends and adults, including teachers.
Social and economic circumstances also affect a child’s ability to develop resilience. Children from low-income families are much more likely to experience poor mental health, compared with children from high-income families.
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