In 2017, London Youth ran a peer research project as part of its Youth Capital report where six young people interviewed a further 36 young people across London. During the interviews, mental health issues were frequently brought up by participants, with some young Londoners saying the one thing they wanted to change about the capital was mental health support.

– These young people were incredibly aware of the issues that can lead to poor wellbeing and mental ill health of young people in London with one young person from Haringey saying “There’s a lot of pressure to find out what you want to do for the rest of your life in a short space of time…[it] causes a lot of issues in terms of mental health, people suffer from depression and anxiety”.

– Young people spoke about difficulties in accessing mental health provision in London and the difference in quality and wait times between boroughs. Youth workers also backed this up noting that despite an increase in awareness in this area, poor wellbeing and mental ill health could be exacerbated by lack of support from mental health services in a timely and appropriate way.

– Many youth workers feel they have become ‘accidental therapists’ with one youth worker from Barking and Dagenham saying that young people ‘want their voices listened to. Parents, [the police] and teachers are not the enemy, but in many situations, they are not necessarily the person young people want to talk to. It’s about us being there and trained to help them’.

London Youth responded by establishing our Wellbeing and Mental Health network to share learning across the youth sector on the different approaches and methods that can be used to support young people in this area. We bring in external speakers and give London Youth members the chance to hear from other community youth organisations that have experience of running projects to help improve young people’s wellbeing. If you’re interested in coming along to the next Wellbeing and Mental Health Network meeting, please contact Laura Fisher on laura.fisher@londonyouth.org 

This has led to the creation of the Development Grant, a fund to build the capacity of our members and test ‘what works’ when introducing wellbeing and mental health projects to existing community youth organisations.

– Last year’s round of Development Grant funding was a great success, with 3 organisations able to explore how best to support the wellbeing on the young people they work with.

– This year we have been lucky enough to give small grants of up to £2,500 to eight London Youth members to support them to improve the wellbeing of young Londoners. They will be developing resources to improve young people’s awareness of mental health issues, taking young people on residentials to give them a break from their day to day lives and running sessions revolving around sports and arts based activities.

Keep an eye on the London Youth website to hear more about how these projects went later in the year!

Note: Our research is backed up by the reports from organisations such as The Prince’s Trust and The Children’s Society which all report decreasing levels of wellbeing, happiness and confidence of young people.