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Emerging Minds


Emerging Minds

Action for child mental health: a new network partnering Newcastle University.

Social justice for children and young people

Recent findings show that as many as 10% of children and young people in the UK have some form of diagnosable mental health problem. Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and self-harm mean that they are more likely to take time off school and exclusions, disrupting their education.

Emerging Minds: Teenagers with their hands in the air, at sunset.

Mental health problems in childhood and adolescence correspond with significant emotional, social, and educational disadvantage, presenting a risk for ongoing mental health problems in adulthood. Young people with mental health problems are more likely to encounter problems in future employment.

There are clear indicators predicting the emergence of these conditions in children. Yet only a minority receive effective support. Three-quarters of children with a diagnosable mental health condition do not gain access to the help they need.

For those who manage to gain access, the average waiting time for a first appointment with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services is six months. They then wait almost 10 months until the start of treatment. These services are turning away nearly a quarter of children referred to them for treatment.

Emerging Minds

To address the problem, a new Mental Health Network has been established. Emerging Minds: Action for Child Mental Health is seeking the best ways of helping children, young people and families to benefit from mental health research. Calling for an innovative, cross-disciplinary approach, it brings together:

  • academics from health research, arts, design, humanities, and physical science
  • researchers, charities, and other organisations

These collaborations will address important questions about mental health research.

Emerging Minds is one of eight new mental health networks announced by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). UKRI will finance the networks with funding of £8 million for up to four years. UKRI has awarded Emerging Minds a grant of £1.25 million.

The network comprises eight university partners, including co-investigator Prof Deborah Chambersof the School of Arts at Newcastle University. Cathy Creswell, Professor of Developmental Clinical Psychology at Reading University, leads the project. The work is funded by a grant of £1.25 million for four years.

An ambitious goal

Emerging Mind’s goal is ambitious. Our vision is to see the number of children and young people who experience mental health problems halved within 20 years. This reflects the aspiration of the funding body, UKRI.

The initiative corresponds with government prioritisation of good mental health promotion among children and young people confirmed in the government green paper, Transforming Children and Young People's Mental Health Provision (2017).

There are clear indicators predicting the emergence of these conditions in children. Yet only a minority of children receive effective support.

Professor Deborah Chambers

Action for Child Mental Health

Young people are increasingly using social media as emotional support. While it may be ‘a catalyst for good mental health’, the very same technology can generate problems such as online bullying.Emerging Minds will explore the role of smartphone apps and other communication technologies to support mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention.

How best to use social media while maintaining trust, online safety and privacy is a major challenge and key task for the network.

Emerging Minds will work with young people and carers with lived experience, as well as policy makers and practitioners. Together, we will co-develop a discrete set of research challenges. The challenges will build on the existing networks of MindTech. These networks include a wide range of healthcare technology companies and those from the creative industries (games, virtual reality and social media).

We will also encourage a focus on the untapped capacity within schools to identify factors that may:

  • promote or hinder effective prevention and early intervention programmes in school settings
  • provide positive mental health messages and environments to promote positive behaviour change
Emerging Minds: Action for Child Mental Health. Girl at laptop computer.

The network activities will involve intensive workshops with young people, carers, policy makers and practitioners. This will lead to the development of co-creation workshops and research development fund calls.

We will focus on how to empower children and their families, to identify and overcome emerging mental health problems.