thumbs upA new guide has been launched that aims to help youth workers better support the mental health and wellbeing of young people aged 16-25 – a critical age for the onset of mental health problems.

The guide, ‘How to promote mental wellbeing in youth work practice’ is the first in a series of new ‘How to’ guides from the Right Here programme. It is aimed at youth organisations working with young people throughout the UK and designed to help them embed effective mental wellbeing improvement practices. It is being supported by a series of training workshops involving young people who participated in the Right Here programme.

The launch of the guide coincides with research from UK Youth, which shows youth workers are frequently dealing with mental health and emotional wellbeing issues with young people. More than 75% of youth workers have dealt with eating disorders, self-harm issues or depression in the past 6 months, while some 90% have dealt with stress or anxiety-related issues in that time.

Susan Blishen, consultant to the Right Here programme, said: “The years between the ages of 16 and 25 years old can have a significant impact on the mental wellbeing of individuals throughout the remainder of their adult lives.

“Unfortunately young people experience a range of barriers to accessing mental health support. For example, adult services are often not designed or delivered in ways that encourage young people to engage, and the stigma associated with mental health problems can dissuade young people from seeking help*.

“This new guide and training programme have been designed to help overcome these barriers, which too often mean that young people’s mental health needs go unsupported.”

David King, programme development manager from UK Youth, added: “Mental wellbeing is sometimes perceived to be the domain of specialist health professionals, but there are some principles of youth work that directly lend themselves to mental wellbeing improvement. For example, youth participation approaches that encourage young people to have a voice in the running of the groups they belong to have been shown to increase confidence and self-esteem. By working with Right Here we hope to make a real difference to the way youth work improves mental health and puts young people’s voices at the heart of this area of work.”

The guide is one of a series being produced to bring together learning from the Right Here programme, run by Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Mental Health Foundation. The programme has developed new approaches to supporting young people’s mental health. This included working with young people, youth charities and mental health agencies across four sites in Brighton and Hove, Fermanagh, Newham, and Sheffield in a unique combination of youth participation and co-design, prevention, early intervention, resilience-building, and anti-stigma activities.