Approximately 75 per cent of lifetime mental disorders begin before the age of 24 years. Prevalence of mental disorder in adolescents and young adults has increased in recent decades and is likely to continue to do so. Mental health problems affect ten to 20 per cent of children and adolescents worldwide. 

Substance abuse

Children and adolescents make up almost a quarter of the world’s population with 85-90 per cent living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Poor mental health is strongly related to other health and development concerns, notably lower educational achievements, substance abuse, violence, and poor reproductive and sexual health. Globally, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in children and young people (CYP).  However, the mental health needs of CYP can be neglected. Key challenges include lack of infrastructure, shortage of mental-health professionals, low capacity of non-specialist health workers to provide quality mental-health services, fragmentation of child and adult services, and the stigma associated with mental disorder.

Developing early intervention strategies in youth services has become even more important:  helping people when they are young may prevent serious life-long conditions developing, as well as improving prognosis.

Strong partnerships

The University of Birmingham has a very strong history of mental health research and innovation. The Institute for Mental Health (IMH) has been established to maximise the collaborative efforts of academics at the University, and builds on the strong existing partnerships with practice in the NHS, established through the Birmingham Health Partners. 

Globally, we partner Orygen, Australia’s National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, with whom we have joint appointments and research collaborations.  The objective of the IMH is to ensure a sustained impact on public policy and practice, and to improve the care and outcomes of those suffering from problems in their mental health. 

In addition to our strengths in policy and service development, Birmingham has state-of-the-art discovery science through the Centre for Human Brain Health. The Centre houses brain imaging equipment allowing for investigating the physiological substrate of mental health problems. These investigations are aimed at improving diagnosis and guiding interventions.

Find out more: Youth Mental Health.