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Young people's reflections on supporting adolescent mental health beyond the pandemic

Karima, Adna and Thai-sha

REACH Young Person Community Champions

13 December 2021

Three REACH Study Young Person Community Champions reflect on recommendations made in a recently published policy briefing, which explored how best to support young people's mental health in a post-Covid society.

We saw Covid-19 turn the world around and the country went into a total lockdown; this had an immense effect on the mental health and wellbeing of young people. Lockdown exacerbated and created many new challenges that urgently needed to be addressed.

In 2021, the ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health partnered with the King’s Policy Institute and the UKRI Emerging Minds Network, to run a conference and follow-up policy lab to identify the most pressing challenges for young people's mental health. Attendees included policymakers, academics, community organisations, young people, parents/carers, and those with experiences of mental health difficulties. The lab resulted in a policy brief, which highlighted key discussion points and recommendations for the future.

In this blog, REACH Community Champions Karima, Thai-sha and Adna reflect on some of these recommendations, from a young person’s perspective.

2 - Schools based


Recommendation 1: Empower and equip school staff to normalise discussions about mental health, providing them with reliable screening tools to help identify children whose needs may be unknown, alongside appropriate training and support

We feel it is pertinent to focus on making conversations with school staff easier and more accessible. Some of our friends experienced mental health issues and found they were able to access relevant resources and care after telling a teacher. We feel this recommendation stresses the importance of in-school services to identify problems at an early stage and to prevent them from escalating. We believe this also recognises the need to equip teachers to support young people effectively and feel equally supported doing so.

Recommendation 4: Bridge the digital divide by providing students with access to the internet and information technology required for education

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in UK schools being closed for an average of 27 weeks which led to an increase in online learning. As young people, we found online learning and academic pressures in the second lockdown to be overbearing. Access to computers provides economic, educational, and social benefits. We believe this recommendation will benefit young people that have experienced an increase in the necessity to have access to technology for schooling since the pandemic.

4 - Support based


Recommendation 7: Strengthen the provision of early intervention from services such as mental health support teams

We believe early intervention is vital as young people face many new and difficult challenges – in relation to work, study, and relationships – as they move into adulthood. As young people, we feel that this recommendation may help young people reach their full potential by preventing the development of serious mental health problems and giving the tools for young people to cope during adulthood.

Recommendation 10: Provide extra support at transition points in young people’s lives, particularly for the more vulnerable, such as moving from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to adult mental health services

The already challenging transition from adolescence to adulthood may be exacerbated since Covid-19. As we leave secondary school, move towards independent living, gain more responsibility, and lose school networks, there are enormous risks for young people disengaging or becoming lost. We believe that support services would help young people like us know that we are not alone. We think those who suffer with mental health problems will largely benefit from additional support in transition points that may be harder for them to adjust due to their poor mental health. Additionally, tailored care may help ensure the changes in support services does not have a countering effect and worsen young people's mental health due to instability.

6 - policy based


Recommendation 11: Maintain or increase financial support to families experiencing hardships due to or exacerbated by the pandemic

Some of our parents were directly affected by the furlough scheme. Although we didn't have any personal money worries, some of our friends in similar predicaments were hugely affected by the scheme which led them to be very anxious about money for necessities. The fear of the unknown was a big problem, not knowing when the furlough was going to end, and if they were still going to have a job after this ‘nightmare’. By contrast, some experiences were very different, especially those of us with parents who are key workers. Nevertheless, we feel this would make a difference, not only to families affected by the pandemic, but also to more low-income families who were already struggling financially for necessities. We feel this recommendation could be supported with additional strategies such as reducing the cost of gas/electric bills and offering training opportunities to upskill which may collectively offer a greater chance of financial stability.

Recommendation 13: Improve links between schools and families as mental health issues in one setting can affect children in the other

Schools play a vital role in promoting students’ mental health and are crucial components for directing children to the right resources effectively. We believe developing positive connections between school staff and parents will be beneficial as the school can work alongside the parents to make an environment where the child feels comfortable to talk about their mental health and assign the right support to them. While some of us believe this relationship would be best placed with teachers that young people already trust and have built a bond with already, we’re also aware that this approach requires training for all teachers followed by a lot of time and tailored support from teachers which is not necessarily realistic.


Overall, we believe the Policy Briefing recommendations are useful and would support young people’s mental health. Some recommendations do require further planning from a practicality perspective to ensure they can be successfully implemented to support young people's mental health.

Written by Karima and Thai-sha. Reflections from Karima, Thai-sha and Adna, the REACH Young Person Community Champions.


Download the Policy Briefing

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Esther Putzgruber

Esther Putzgruber

Research Assistant

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