New research to improve treatment for adolescent mental health

Vital improvements to treatments for mental health conditions amongst teenagers and young adults could be on the horizon thanks to new UK government-backed research.

In the UK, one in eight children or young people 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.

A new £35 million government-backed research programme launched today (Monday 7 October) aims to give more support to teenagers battling with mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders. Academics will look at external tensions and genetics to ensure mental health problems are being treated as effectively as possible at this crucial age, while the brain is still developing.

Adolescence is often a poorly understood period in our lives, when the brain is particularly sensitive to external influences – while youngsters’ social and cultural interactions are rapidly changing. Early intervention has a crucial role to play in ensuring young people have quicker, better access to support and treatments.

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.”

Promoting healthy behaviours, the new programme will benefit from £35 million over its five-year duration and will look at how youngsters interact with the world, their biological background, their social relationships and achievements at school. It is open to Higher Education Institutes, businesses and Public Sector Research Schemes for involvement – building a national capability across the UK.

The project could lead to 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. The findings from this research could potentially reduce instances of anti-social behaviour, substance abuse or low educational attainment.