What are the main priorities for youth mental health research?

For this year’s World Mental Health Day, the Mental Health Foundation’s research team was honoured to be able to present on the work we do at the Mental Health Foundation at the University of York’s event, ‘Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World’.

Given that the event attracted such a range of attendees, from students (both undergraduate and postgraduate), to university staff, to external colleagues, it was a great opportunity to ask people to tell us what they felt were the most important priorities for youth mental health research.

We asked attendees the question: what are the priority issues and questions for future youth mental health research? We received 34 responses in total from a range of participants, including 10 staff members, seven undergraduate students and three postgraduate students. Using thematic analysis, we identified some common themes across the responses.

Early detection and prevention of mental health problems.

This included the prevention of eating disorders, preventing suicide in at-risk youth, and more universal prevention work with children and young people.

Supporting the mental health of underrepresented groups.

This included interest in exploring if there is a relationship between the demographics of health professionals within a university, and the use of services by members of minority communities such as black and minority ethnic communities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

Researching mental health in schools

One suggested approach was to effectively incorporate mental health into school curriculums, something we at the Mental Health Foundation are calling for as part of our Make it Count campaign.

Mental health in universities

This included the importance of community, and the relationship between students’ socioeconomic status and their access to mental health services. The issue of isolation at university - in particular, the impact on students’ mental health when they do not, or are not able to, engage in university ‘drinking culture’ – was raised as another potential area for research.

Isolation

As a broader topic, isolation, including those outside the university setting, was felt to be an important research area for youth mental health.

Mental health problems within families

Particularly in relation to the children of parents with mental health problems, the impact this can have, and ways in which these families can best be supported.

Overall, respondents felt that research should listen more to the voice of children and young people, and that services for young people should be shaped by what they value, and what they say is important.

This priority-setting exercise was incredibly valuable - it provides us with a deeper insight into the questions people have around youth mental health, which can help inform us in setting our own research priorities.

What priorities do you have for researching mental health in young people? Let us know in the comments below.