Priorities for Research in Young People’s Mental Health

What is this research?

We have been conducting a James Lind Alliance (JLA) priority setting partnership (PSP) to help support our understanding of children and young people’s mental health.It brings together children and young people (including those with lived experience of mental health problems), families, professionals and academics to identify the top 10 priorities for research in children and young people’s mental health.


Why is this research important?

Over half of mental health problems in adult life start by the age of 14 and seventy-five per cent by age 18[1]. However, a recent survey showed that mental health professionals feel the services offered to children who are struggling with their mental health are inadequate [2][3]. In 2015, The Department of Health and NHS England reported from a ‘Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Taskforce’ committing to spending £1.25 billion over 5 years on children and young people’s mental health. The Department of Health has also published a 10 year mental health research strategy [4]which includes children and young people’s mental health as a priority. This project will give young people and families a voice in identifying where the important research gaps are in this field in order to influence which research is funded, and ultimately improve the mental health of children and young people.


How is McPin Involved?

The McPin Foundation is leading a consortium of interested groups including MQthe Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, the Matthew Elvidge Trust, and Mental Health Research UK coordinating the PSP.

We have formed a steering group of young people, parents, education and mental health professionals and academics to guide the process. We have also formed a project-specific young people’s advisory group of 11-25 year olds. Both groups are involved with decision making at each step of the project.

  • Earlier last year we launched two national public surveys. The first one asked people to submit the questions they would like answered about children and young people’s mental health. This survey was open for 4 months, from July to November, and we received over 2,600 responses equalling over 5,000 questions.
  • We then organised the responses and checked whether any existing research already answers some of the questions.
  • This led to our second survey, asking the public to select their top ten questions from the remaining list. We looked at all of the responses, paying attention to which groups rated which questions as the most important, (for example, what did young people typically vote as their top questions, compared to teachers, parents, etc). The survey was open for 3 weeks and we received over 750 responses.
  • This process was followed by a final prioritisation workshop. Young people, parents, teachers, mental health professionals and researchers came together, resulting in the top 10 unanswered research questions in children and young people’s mental health.
  • We hope that the list, once published, will guide academics and funders to important and relevant research areas.

“This research is really important because involving young people ensures that the research which is most important to them becomes a priority. It also means that time and money are not wasted on projects that are not asking the right questions. Furthermore, as a member of a young person’s group that advises on mental health research projects, I know from experience that it is a great feeling to know you’re contributing to improving practises and treatments that will help other young people.”


Tilda Simpson – Member of the NIHR Clinical Research Network’s Young Person’s Mental Health Advisory Group


What is the current status of this project?

The Final prioritisation workshop took place on 16th July, resulting in the Top Ten unanswered Questions about children and young people’s mental health. We will be having revealing these before the end of the year. Our plans for launching these results will be revealed at a later date.

We are also in the process of writing a final report for the project.

Updates about the project will be posted on our twitter: @youngpeopleMHQ and our Facebook Page:

If you are interested in getting involved in the project as an individual or organisation please get in touch with Thomas Kabir (


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Who do I contact for more information?

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You can contact Lauren Evans or Thomas Kabir by email | or phone 020 7922 7875.

[1] Department of Health (2015) Future in Mind: Promoting, protecting and improving our children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing

[2] 70% of children’s mental health nurses rated CAMHS services as ‘inadequate’ or ‘highly inadequate’ The Guardian (2016)

[3] 96% of professionals working with child victims of abuse say there are not enough CAMHS services to support them (NSPCC, 2016)

[4] Department of health (2017) A Framework for mental health research