A revolution in mindset

Think tank: Reform

Author(s): Sebastian Rees; Patrick King

April 14, 2022

This report from UK think tank Reform looks at addressing the youth mental health crisis after the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on the mental health and wellbeing of the nation. However, its impacts have been particularly severe for teenagers. Disruptions to everyday routines, lost opportunities to learn, and limited chances to socialise have left many feeling isolated and anxious. Alarmingly, by late 2021 more than one in six 11–19-year-olds had a probable mental health condition, up from one in nine before the pandemic. This research puts forward practical recommendations — from improving the use of data to better understand young people’s mental health needs, to enhancing the supporting role that schools can play — to put young people’s mental health at the heart of the recovery. The report makes the following recommendations: NHS England should urgently update access and treatment targets using current prevalence data. The Department for Education (DfE), working with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) should design and roll out a standardised survey for assessing wellbeing and mental health among young people in schools. PSHE should be transformed into a universal, timetabled lesson, which is allocated a minimum of an hour a week – underpinned by a curriculum which teaches social and emotional skills. NHS Digital should urgently collect outcomes data from the rollout of Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) – since 2017, the Government’s flagship offer of in-school mental health support. A workforce plan should be created by Health Education England to increase the retention of mental health practitioners working in MHSTs, by creating opportunities for vertical progression.