Youth Mental Health Day takes place on 7 September 2021 and aims to encourage young people and those who support them to understand their mental health and how to protect it. To mark the Day, the Mental Health Foundation is launching new, free material for school pupils and teachers, developed by our Peer Education Project (PEP) team.
The PEP is a secondary-school-based programme that supports school staff in training older pupils to teach younger pupils a mental health curriculum. It supports pupils in developing coping strategies to safeguard their mental health and recognise when to ask for help for themselves and their peers.
The new material focuses on learning to have a good body image, why being kind is so important, and how we can all manage our sleep better. In addition, the Foundation has, in collaboration with Reflect and Refocus, produced a guide about ways to rest for staff and issued guidance about returning to school.
Ruth Simmonds, PEP Project Manager at the Mental Health Foundation, said: “The Mental Health Foundation is passionate about giving children and young people, as well as those around them, the skills and knowledge to protect and maintain their mental health and support others to do the same. As schools reopen for the new academic year, we’re bringing the spotlight back on pupils' mental health and wellbeing and those supporting them within education.
“This has been a very challenging year for children and young people. The pandemic and its consequences have affected almost all areas of personal, educational, and social life for children and young people – especially those experiencing major life transitions, like moving from primary to secondary school or on to university and work.
“Schools have huge potential for preventing mental health problems, so we are pleased to be helping them with this new, free material. PEP is an opportunity for schools to put mental health awareness and support as a priority from day one, and its online platform provides all the resources required to introduce the project into the school curriculum. You can register now at pep.mentalhealth.org.uk.
Research on the pandemic shows that children and young people have consistently shown reduced levels of good mental health and wellbeing, with:
The number of diagnosable mental health conditions rose from 1 in 8 in 2018 to 1 in 6.
At least one-third are experiencing increased mental health and well-being issues.
66% reported feeling alone ‘some of the time' or ‘often’, according to a study of British 13- to 19-year-olds by the Mental Health Foundation and academic partners.
45% say that life in the UK will be worse for their future due to the pandemic, according to the same study of British 13- to 19-year-olds by the Mental Health Foundation and academic partners.
The study of mental health during the pandemic makes it clear that older teenagers and younger adults are among the groups who have suffered the most. Their education, social lives and careers were massively disrupted by lockdown restrictions – and many are still finding their studies and work damaged by the pandemic and their hopes for the future. Friendships are especially important to young people, and so not being allowed to socialise has been particularly hard on them in a way that has affected their mental health. Over the year since the lockdown started, the study found that they were much more likely than older adults to feel lonely, anxious, hopeless and suicidal. What will help them recover includes confidence that they will be able to get a high-quality education, training or employment, along with basic needs such as enough food, decent housing and money for essentials.
Notes to editors
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 2349 teenagers aged 13 to 19 years. Fieldwork was done between 24 May – 15 June 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and represent all GB teenagers aged 13-19 years).
 NHS Digital (2020). Mental Health of Children and Young People in England. NHS. [Accessed on 23/06/21].
 Barnardo’s. (2020). Coping with Grief, Bereavement and Loss. Barnardo’s. [Accessed on 23/06/21].
The Mental Health Foundation is a charity dedicated to finding and addressing the sources of mental health problems. Its mission is for a world with good mental health for all. Visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk
The Mental Health Foundation has partnered with Ruth Hughes, Founder of Reflect and Refocus and a Health and Wellbeing Complementary Therapist at Rest for Life, to produce the Rethinking Rest Guide for education staff.