Special Issue on young people's mental health

The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice

ISSN: 1755-6228

Article publication date: 2 December 2014



Wright, N. (2014), "Special Issue on young people's mental health", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 9 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMHTEP-09-2014-0029



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Special Issue on young people's mental health

Article Type: Guest editorial From: The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Volume 9, Issue 4.

Children and young people carry the hopes and aspirations of adults on their shoulders. The world they will inherit we hope will be different to the one we live in now. As Gandhi stated:

        If we are to teach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.

In relation to health and inequalities in health, the Marmot (2010) review in the UK made similar conclusions. Although it identified six policy objectives to promote social justice and health equity, the review highlighted that the priority was to give every child the best start in life (Marmot, 2010). As children and young people are so important to society, it is disappointing that when they struggle with their mental health the services and support they need are often not available. In an open letter to The Guardian newspaper Dr Peter Hindley, Chair of the Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists stated that CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) experience a lack of parity of esteem in comparison to other specialties, in terms of both age and mental health. In terms of the spending on mental health 6 per cent of funding is allocated to children's mental health, but CAMHS serves 20 per cent of the population (Hindley, 2014).

As indicated above, mental health problems are extremely common in young people; statistics from YoungMinds (www.youngminds.org.uk), a third-sector organisation in the UK, highlight the following trends:

  • one in ten young people aged between five and 16 years suffer from a diagnosable mental health problem;

  • between one in 12 and one in 15 young people deliberately self-harm;

  • over 8,000 children under the age of ten suffer from severe depression;

  • 72 per cent of looked after children have a behavioural or emotional disturbance; and

  • 95 per cent of young offenders in institutions have at least one mental health disorder.

Although the above figures relate to the UK, the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people is a global issue. UNICEF (2011) in their State of the World's Children Report highlights that mental health problems in young people present a major public health challenge. In particular they cite that depression is the single largest contributor to the global burden of disease for those aged 15-19 years (UNICEF, 2011).

Given this context, it has been fascinating to guest edit this youth mental health Special Issue for the Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice. The innovation and commitment the authors have shown through their projects demonstrates some fantastic work taking place in the research, education and practice arenas. Their work also serves as a reminder that youth mental health is not only the responsibility of health services. Third-sector organisations, peer support and family all have an important role in supporting young people with mental health problems.

The first paper in this issue (Russell et al.) is a viewpoint paper based on a major campaign in the UK led by two mental health charities: Mind and Rethink. It reminds us of the important role third-sector organisations play in raising public awareness and tackling the stigma and discrimination which young people with mental health problems experience. The second two papers by Watson et al. and Sin et al. report the role of peers and siblings in supporting young people with mental health problems. They provide a timely reminder that family members and individuals who have experiential knowledge of mental health can offer vital support. Abbott et al. explore young offenders’ experiences of transitions and gaps in mental health service provision. They found that, like many other populations, these individuals held the same values about what facilitates and hinders their engagement with mental health services and helping relationships. Although Blackburn et al. do not focus specifically on youth mental health, their work on the development of an eating disorder pathway is particularly relevant to this group of people. The paper demonstrates that through collaborative working, it is possible to start to fill some of the gaps in mental health service provision. The final paper in this issue (McCabe et al.) originates from Canada and highlights the vital role that teachers play in supporting young people and their development of resilience. However, to be able to do this effectively there is a need to provide them with the knowledge, skills, training and support necessary.

I hope you find this issue as interesting to read as I have found editing it. The mental health of children and young people is a crucial area that requires the very best in training, education and practice. As Postman (1982, p. xi) states very eloquently: “children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see”.

Nicola Wright - a Lecturer in Mental Health, based at School of Health Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.


Hindley, P. (2014), “Mental health funding cuts are leaving young people abandoned”, The Guardian, 14 August

Marmot, M. (2010), Fair Societies, Healthy Lives: Executive Summary, The Marmot Review, London

Postman, N. (1982), The Disappearance of Childhood, Delacourt Press, New York, NY

UNICEF (2011), The State of the World's Children 2011. Adolescence the Age of Opportunity, UNICEF, New York, NY

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