Responding effectively to support the mental health and well-being of young people

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The well-being of today’s youth is undermined by high levels of psychological distress and emerging mental health problems. Young people face unique challenges during their increasingly extended transition from childhood to adulthood and experience a period of heightened vulnerability to mental health problems. It is essential to intervene early and effectively in the development of such problems to prevent their negative effects during adolescence and reduce ongoing impact through persistence and escalation into adulthood. One of the greatest challenges to intervening early and taking a preventive approach is the reluctance of young people to seek help, particularly from professional mental health care. This reluctance can be matched by the hesitancy of adults with significant roles in young people’s lives to reach out and intervene. It is ironic that the life stages between late childhood and early adulthood are characterized by both the highest level of need for effective mental health care and the lowest level of service use. A range of developmental, social, and psychological factors impact on the help-seeking beliefs and behaviors of young people and the people who are in frequent contact with them. These must be understood so that associated barriers to seeking help can be overcome and young people are able to easily access the mental health care they need – when and where they need it. Effective responses require engagement of the whole community including family, peers, trusted adults in young people’s lives, as well as relevant health, mental health, and community service providers. Technology has an increasingly important role in reaching out to and engaging young people in interventions that support their well-being in ways that are congruent with how young people live their technology-enhanced lives. Into the future, integrated systems of health and community services, with easily navigated gateways to transition between self-help, informal support, and professional services and between online and in-person environments, underpinned by a well-informed community, are urgently needed. We are on the cusp of realizing such systems in some countries, and these innovative approaches must be prioritized to mitigate mental health risks in the transition period between childhood and adulthood, so that today’s young people are able to meet the challenges they will face as tomorrow’s adults.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Children and Youth Studies
EditorsJohanna Wyn, Helen Cahill
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9789814451154
ISBN (Print)9789814451147
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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