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Research programme could solve mystery around mental health issues

Government bosses have launched a research programme to better understand and treat mental health issues in adolescence. 

In the UK, one in eight children or young people is 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 spokesman for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) said the new £35 million government-backed research programme aims to give more support to teenagers battling with mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders has launched,

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, the UKRI spokesman said.

UK research and innovation executive chair for the Medical Research Council, Professor Fiona Watt, said early intervention has a crucial role to play in ensuring young people have quicker, better access to support and treatments. She said:

‘It’s clear that events in our teenage years have a major impact on lifelong mental health and wellbeing. The current statistics are stark – 75 per cent of mental health problems emerge by the age of 24. Mental health problems are on the rise and suicide is a leading cause of death in young people.

‘UK Research and Innovation is one of the top three funders of mental health research in the UK, and our researchers are making huge strides towards improving our understanding of mental health. This significant new investment will play a key role in unlocking the mysteries that surround how and why we develop mental health problems.’

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.

A spokesman for UKRI said 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.

Emma Thomas, chief executive of and adolescent mental health charity, YoungMinds welcomed the programme. She said:

‘This investment in research is hugely welcome. We know from young people we work with that the factors that can lead to poor mental health are often complex, but that difficult experiences at a young age – like bereavement, bullying or abuse – can have a huge impact. It’s really important that we have clear evidence about how the circumstances children grow up in affect their mental health, and about what forms of support make the most difference.

‘While we undoubtedly need investment in NHS mental health services, we would also hope that this research would lead to further action across government and across society to address the crisis and make early support a priority.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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