Young people issue UK-wide call for mental health transformation

Young campaigners across the UK are marking Children’s Mental Health Week by uniting to call for transformation of the mental health system so that it puts young people’s needs at the centre.

Supported by charities in each of the four nations of the UK, hundreds of young people have come together to outline their vision for what community-based mental health services should look like as part of the Our Minds Our Future project.

In each of the four nations, young people produced a set of calls and recommendations for mental health transformation reflecting differing local realities and lived experiences. Throughout the UK however, young people were unified in calling for:

  • Services that listen to the voices and needs of young people
  • A reduction in waiting times for mental health support
  • More flexible forms of support that allow young people to engage in ways that suit them
  • An end to inequality and discrimination in the mental health system

The publication of these calls to action, which can be read in full on the Our Minds Our Future website, is the first stage of a five-year National Lottery-funded project that aims to empower young people to shape mental health services across the UK as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lizzie, one of the young people who engaged with the project in England, said:

“I struggled with an eating disorder, and I was ‘assessed’ as not being underweight enough to access support. I finally went on a 14-month waiting list, but while I was waiting, I reached a crisis point and was admitted to hospital due to being 10 days away from dying. When life is a living hell, even waiting an hour is too long - so to just be told ‘no’ is horrendous. Being told we’re not ill enough to qualify for support just makes us feel invalidated, worthless, and can encourage people to get worse and put their lives in danger, just to meet the criteria threshold to get a diagnosis.

“That’s why our demands for mental health transformation are so important. We’re calling for open access support that puts the needs and rights of young people at the centre, and looks at young people as a whole person rather than just a diagnosis to be filed. This could help so many young people who face mental health issues every year from reaching a crisis point that could so easily be prevented.”

Zahra one of the young people who contributed to the project in Northern Ireland, said: 

“I hope that the issues outlined by young people are dealt with urgently.  Reducing waiting times, reducing costs, guaranteeing safe, non-judgemental environments, and providing thorough mental health education are what is needed from our mental health services.  Currently, these elements are often not available, and that needs to change.”

Erin, one of the young people who engaged with the project in Scotland, said:

“I became involved in this programme because I believe that Scotland can be a world leader in mental health services if we actively listen to the people who will benefit from them. In the upcoming phases of the project, we will bring together young people, decision makers and experts to highlight our approach and empower young people to reclaim their UNCRC right to good quality healthcare.”

Stephen, a young person involved in the project in Wales said:

"It was really good to be a part of developing the charter I think it’s important and positive to have service users' feedback. Having us involved kept topics and discussions relevant to young people and about our issues with mental health services.”

Cassandra Harrison, CEO of Youth Access, the organisation co-ordinating the UK-wide partnership, said:

"The demands of these young people echo the voices of young people across the country who are crying out for their rights to be realised. We look forward to working with our partners across the devolved nations to make sure that people in power listen to these young people and bring about the transformation we so desperately need in our mental health system."

Notes to editors:

  1. Our Minds Our Future is a project giving young people the opportunity to influence the way mental health services are designed and run across the UK. In each of the four nations, young people are coming together to raise a collective voice for the kind of transformational change they want to see in the mental health system in their communities.
  2. The project partners worked with young people to produce “charters” outlining young people’s vision for mental health transformation in each nation. The results can be read in full at
  3. Our Minds Our Future is a partnership between Youth Access, the Scottish Youth Parliament, SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health), ProMo-Cymru, Hafal, National Children’s Bureau Northern Ireland, Royal College of Psychiatrists and NHS Clinical Commissioners Mental Health Network.
  4. The project is possible thanks to a £1.4 million grant from the National Lottery Community Fund.
  5. The National Lottery Community Fund distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes. Last year it awarded over half a billion pounds (£588.2 million) of life-changing funding to communities across the UK.
  6. Children’s Mental Health Week runs from 1-7 February 2021, and is an initiative of the charity Place2Be. This year’s theme is Express Yourself. Find more info at