Improving mental health support for young people

Researchers at The University of Manchester are providing schools with practical resources to support children who experience mental health difficulties.

Global challenge: youth mental health

Around 10% of schoolchildren currently experience some form of mental health difficulty and up to half of all adult cases begin during school years.

Research suggests that early interventions like teaching skills and guidance on life challenges before the onset of mental health difficulties may lead to better outcomes, with children more likely to ‘thrive’ rather than ‘survive’ in later life.

Manchester solution: practical support for schools

The work of Dr Michael Wigelsworth and Professor Neil Humphrey at the Manchester Institute of Education provides key insights into the causes of children’s mental health difficulties and how education professionals can support young people to live a positive life in school and beyond.

Their research has a strong focus on professional practice and they collaborate with a range of national and international partners, including schools and colleges, universities, charities, and healthcare providers.

Research results

The key findings of their research to date relate to the three vital stages of mental health support in schools:

  • The importance of early universal promotion – such as identifying and understanding risk and protective factors and their relationship to later outcomes;
  • Understanding mental health, identification and support – the practical methods by which we can support mental health among pupils. This includes a deeper understanding of developmental differences, educational therapy, psychologically informed education and intervention, as well as ways of ensuring wider access and participation;
  • Broader understanding of the range of factors influencing mental health – from the impact of poverty to gender-specific development in childhood.


This research area aims to offer practical support for vulnerable learners in schools and other contexts. It has already had a direct impact on educational policy and practice at local, national and international levels, including:

  • a portfolio of school-based evaluations of interventions designed to address behaviour, mental health and wellbeing;
  • a series of evidence-based recommendations for schools in implementing wellbeing approaches across whole school, class-based programmes and individual practices for teachers;
  • the production of an online database of social, personal and wellbeing measures for use in schools.

Visit the Applied Prevention in Education theme page to find out more about related projects.

Find out more

Dr Michael Wigelsworth explores an educational framework that enables children to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions.

In this report, Dr Michael Wigelsworth and Professor Neil Humphrey propose universal school-based mental health screening for more effective prevention and intervention services.

Professor Neil Humphrey highlights that a causal link between children’s use of digital technologies and subsequent mental health difficulties has not been proven. Instead, he sets out the four steps that we can take to empower young people to benefit from social media.

Meet the researchers: