A line of young people standing against a wall outside.

Deconstructing the system: young people's voices on mental health, society and inequality


The past three years have been tough. We've seen a global pandemic, political instability, cultural shifts and global crises. These have come together to make life feel unpredictable and difficult. For young people like you, it’s poured fuel on an already burning fire. It continues to get harder for you to navigate things in your life like education and work, and now you're facing a future that feels even more uncertain.

This report shines a light on the young people’s mental health crisis. It brings together the voices of tens of thousands of young people who shared their experiences of the world around them.

While the backgrounds, identities and experiences of these young people differed, what they told us was all too similar. Their perspectives have shown us exactly what areas need to change, and we want to make that change a reality.

Play Video: It's time to address the issues that make young people's mental health worse. It's time to address the issues that make young people's mental health worse.

We’ve gone way past the point where we can continue to look at record numbers of young people needing mental health support and carry on as we’ve always been doing.

Our five focus areas for change

The stories and experiences of young people have helped us to identify five broad areas where change is needed.

You have spoken and we have listened.

These five key focus areas will underpin our policy development work so that, working alongside you, we can start to turn the tide of the young people’s mental health crisis.

  • Social structures and systems

    The first area of concern is the social structures and systems that young people like you interact with most: education, the economic system, health and social care, law enforcement, and critically, the political system and media. You've told us that these are failing to support your mental health.

  • Mental health services

    Our second area of focus is the overstretched and underfunded mental health services. This is having a profound impact on your mental health, despite being built to protect and improve your mental health.

  • Social inequality and discrimination

    Our third and largest area is social inequality and discrimination. We found that social inequality and discrimination shows up in every area of young people's experiences. This has the greatest impact on your wellbeing, making you feel unsafe to be yourself. And this is particularly true for minoritised young people.

  • Global issues

    The fourth area we’ll focus on is the impact of global issues. You and other young people are not only aware of what’s going on across the world, but you're being deeply affected by it. This includes warfare and instability, as well as social, health and climatic breakdowns that have characterised the last few years, and will no doubt characterise the coming decades too.

  • Social pressures and attitudes

    Our fifth and final focus area is society and its impact on young people on an individual level. Your day-to-day relationships, your communities, and your wider society are impacting your mental health. But there is hope. You told us you can also benefit from your social circles and communities. There is potential for these to provide a well of support for you.

The majority of young people we spoke to had been subject to some form of discrimination.

Minoritised young people had also experienced high levels of social inequality.

A roadmap for change

Our five areas of focus paint a bleak picture of young people’s mental health in the UK today. But with our clear roadmap for change, we have hope for the future.

You have had your say and you've made it clear.

You want the Government and public institutions to take accountability for their part in shaping the systems that lead to poor mental health.

It’s now up to us to ensure that these bodies take responsibility and lead the way. Like you, we want them to start tackling structural inequalities, discrimination and lack of empathy. We hope that as they do, you will begin to feel heard and empowered.

A young Black woman in a wheelchair and a young Black man on a bench, both staring at the camera looking serious.

At YoungMinds, we pledge for young people to be partners in our plans for action every step of the way. We want to keep your experiences at the heart of this work.

Jump into our five focus areas

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Document type: PDF

Document size: 3.4 MB

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