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Blog: Supporting the self-care and mental health of students and young people

2nd November 2020

by Dr Richard Graham, Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Lead for Good Thinking

World Mental Health Day is always a special day in the calendar for Good Thinking, and this year’s theme ‘Mental Health for All’ was a really great one. Yet our eyes were also open to the very particular impact COVID has had on different groups in London; we are not ‘all in this together’ equally, as some groups have struggled more.

As the impact of COVID has evolved, we have created many new articles, blogs and podcasts to support Londoners, and the most viewed content was related to children and young people.

More recently, data from those completing our clinically validated self-assessments on Good Thinking revealed that the largest group using them were 16-20 years old, followed by 31-35-year olds, with the third-largest group undertaking self-assessments were those aged  21-25.

But beyond what we can learn from Good Thinking, we had also been following many research projects, such as the COVID-19 Social Study from UCL; the message was repeated and clear: the impact of COVID on young people’s mental health appeared to be greater than for any other age-group. Furthermore, a group of experts had written to The Sunday Times back in June, “When many of this cohort enter adulthood, we will be deep in recession, so they will need mental resilience and educational preparedness. Instead, we are damaging both, with lifelong consequences for them and society”; we were listening to that too.

So, whilst the theme for World Mental Health Day was ‘Mental Health for All’, we could not ignore this area of inequality, this need for support and wanting to do more for young people, especially students. We needed to provide tools and resources to help support them to build ‘mental resilience’.

For World Mental Health Day we first collaborated with our friends and colleagues at The Student Room and with Yubo, on campaigns for the many young people that find support in those communities. It may seem obvious, but most of us will make more use of support if it is trusted by a community that we also rely upon; that now includes online communities.

We then began to identify the best resources we knew of that could support the self-care and mental health of students, and brought them together into our Student Toolkit that is now available, and will be shared with universities in the near future. There is so much more to be done, and we will continue to find new ways of supporting students, such as directing them to some amazing free Apps, such as tomo which can really boost their mental health.

Students, and young people more widely, are simply the future of this country, and though often blamed for the problems of their elders, they deserve better. At Good Thinking, we will keep listening to what young people and students tell us, as well as keeping a close eye on any new research for pointers on what more we need to do.

For more information on Good Thinking, visit www.good-thinking.uk

About the author

Dr Richard Graham is a Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, former Clinical Director of the Adolescent Directorate at the Tavistock Clinic and Clinical Lead for Good Thinking.

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