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08 February 2021

Researchers work with young people to understand mental health challenges and the impacts of lockdown

In the latest episode of the WORLD: we got this podcast, Dr Gemma Knowles talks about the ground-breaking research being undertaken to understand and support young people's mental health.

Group of diverse modern teenagers wearing protective masks

Speaking during Children's Mental Health Week, Dr Gemma Knowles joined the podcast to discuss the emerging challenges for young people's mental health and the recent challenges posed by COVID-19.

Young people on our study were not surprised that we didn't see a spike in mental health in the first lockdown, as it was new and in some ways exciting. But their key message to us is don’t assume this will continue to be the case, the novelty has worn off, and they have started to realise the impact of missing school and social contact.

Dr Gemma Knowles

The REACH study , which forms the basis for much of the work being done on young peoples’ mental health at the Centre for Society and Mental Health, is one of the few studies collecting longitudinal data before and during the pandemic. It allows researchers to track the impact of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns on young people.

Before the pandemic hit we collected data at three-time points….and so when the pandemic hit we were one of the few research groups in the UK that had longitudinal data on young peoples’ mental health going into lockdown. And so we've been able to question them again between lockdowns.

Dr Gemma Knowles

Dr Knowles made clear the importance of giving young people a platform within the research; and that there is a need to include a diverse cohort to avoid national averages missing underlying issues:

"Young people are the experts in their own lives…..the work we're doing wouldn't be possible without the input of young people."

The research also demonstrates the need for increased support for young people, not just in their home lives but also in schools, where teachers face a growing demand for mental health services.

In this story

Gemma Knowles

Lecturer in Epidemiology and Youth Mental Health