BrainWaves, a global mental health and wellbeing initiative for young people, has been launched today. It will give scientists a better understanding of the adolescent brain and secondary schools high quality, evidence-based advice and mental health interventions for schools, including lesson materials on mental health.
The unique long-term collaboration between education professionals and scientists at the University of Oxford, Swansea University and educational publisher The Day is a direct response to the global crisis in young people’s mental health. Mental health disorders are increasing fastest in young people (aged between 13 and 24). In the UK, between 2017 and 2021 the proportion of boys (17-19 years) with a probable mental health disorder rose from seven per cent to 10.3 per cent whilst the proportion for girls rose from 13.4 per cent to 24.8 per cent (Source: NHS).
This is consistent with global trends, making adolescent mental health a growing worldwide crisis. The study will include setting up one of the largest ever cohort studies of adolescents. It will form a crucial part of a new platform for research into young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Over a minimum period of 10 years, BrainWaves academic mental health experts will study young people from participating schools over several years. It is expected the number of students included during the decade will exceed 50,000.
Speaking about the long-term programme, Professor of Cognitive Health at the University of Oxford, John Gallacher, said:
“We have to do a lot better at understanding the teenage mind and addressing mental health issues amongst our young people. More than anything we need to equip them with the tools to thrive in the world today. The only meaningful way that can be achieved is undertaking research at scale with a large number of young people to understand the adolescent mind better than ever before and then applying that evidence-based research in classrooms with well-designed teaching materials.”
The BrainWaves research platform will be a sophisticated framework for future research in genetics, neuroscience and school-based mental health interventions. At the heart of these research facilities is an Informatics Hub at Swansea University where anonymised data from 11-23-year-olds will be held, including surveys, self-reporting questionnaires, health records, population statistics and behavioural data.
Professor of Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Oxford, Mina Fazel, said:
“The collaboration with the education sector is vital to the success of the programme. We will be working with schools to create a research cohort as well as a platform to conduct school-based mental health interventions with a diverse group of UK secondary schools to learn more about the adolescent brain.”
The programme will also be giving free access to vital data assets to researchers in the UK and worldwide, enabling them to discover new insights into both prevention and treatment of mental health and evidence-based insights to inform how the issue is addressed in schools.
The Day’s Julian Turner is Director of Education at BrainWaves. He said: “Working closely with schools, we are providing cutting-edge, evidence-backed educational resources for teachers and students. Over time we will be refining these to reflect all the new evidence as it emerges. Perhaps most exciting of all is that we will be empowering young people to learn about mental health.”
BrainWaves newly launched website offers secondary schools a variety of free opportunities and resources:
- webinars for teachers about the teenage brain, latest science, guidance, insights about managing students’ mental health issues and about participation in the programme.
- Lesson materials to use with students. These age-appropriate lessons will equip young people to have mental health literacy. This will include understanding their own brains and developing strategies to manage their mental health and wellbeing.
- Enrolling as participants in the BrainWaves programme as study schools, providing muchneeded information such as questionnaire responses and other data.
The first phase of the programme has been funded by philanthropists, but it is hoped the expansion of BrainWaves will lead to securing significant research funding. Watch a video about BrainWaves or get more information on the website.