Helping young people to live happy, healthy lives header image

Helping young people to live happy, healthy lives 

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, a week-long event shining a light on health and wellbeing, but most importantly on recognising that our mental health is just as important as our physical health.

Let's talk about youth mental health
Wellbeing is at the heart of everything we do at the Berkeley Foundation, and we want to see all young people being able to live happy, healthy lives. In 2019/20, over £1m was given to charities supporting young people's health and wellbeing through grants, fundraising and Give as You Earn.

However, children and young people's lives have been disproportionally affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. From job prospects, to relationships and wellbeing, all young people have felt the adverse effects of uncertainty, lockdown and restrictions. Even before the pandemic, NHS figures showed that one in six 5-16 year olds were identified as having mental health conditions, and only a quarter of those accessed the professional help they needed.

Improving Youth Mental Health - evaluation findings
For the past ten years, we have been committed to investing in work to support young people's mental wellbeing - building confidence, resilience and self-esteem. Two years ago, the Foundation commissioned Renaisi to evaluate the Improving Youth Mental Health programme. Six charity partners - Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, Free to Be Kids, Harlequins Foundation, Leap Confronting Conflict, MAC-UK, and St. Matthew's Project - received a total of £279,000 towards engaging young people who had an increased risk of developing a mental health issue, or were experiencing early symptoms, in activities that could improve their mental health.

The executive summary of the report is available here. Overall, the programme enabled our charity partners to deliver well-developed projects in new and innovative ways, reaching a wider audience of young people and gaining recognition for their work among peers and partners. Above all, young people and the adults that support them have gained the tools needed to improve their mental health, confidence and connection to others.

The report has been an important resource for the Foundation as we have developed our partnerships with organisations supporting young people's mental health during the pandemic.

77% of young people who took part in a workshop by Anna Freud Centre felt more engaged in conversations around mental health, and 82% of participants in St Matthew's Fit for Life programme reported increased self-control and discipline.

Our commitment to learning and sharing

This Mental Health Awareness Week, we want to share three key insights from the Improving Youth Mental Health programme that have shaped our thinking and will continue to play an essential role in our work going forward.

Local, trusted organisations are best placed to reach young people who don't traditionally engage with services. The Berkeley Foundation will continue to empower local organisations that understand the needs of their communities and hold trusted relationships with young people. We believe that it is through these relationships that young people will gain the skills and confidence to shape their futures.

Meaningful change is built over time. Supporting young people's mental health isn't about easy wins. It's about building long term relationships and strategic partnerships that can start to change the systems and structures around young people for the better. We've continued our relationships with Anna Freud and MAC-UK for a further three years, and launched a new partnership with Khulisa, so that we can continue to explore these challenges together.

Gathering useful data on young people's mental health is a challenge, and change can be difficult to quantify. We recognise that we still have much to learn when supporting partners to evidence impact, and it's vital we don't put an unnecessary burden on staff and resources. As we move into the next phase of the programme, we'll be working with our charity partners and young people to design an approach to evaluation that is right for them.