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Adolescent Mental Health: Resilience - Michael O'Kane

We know that adolescence is a key area for development but that young people can experience many problems, including poor mental health. We also know that mental health doesn’t exist in isolation. There are many situations and  challenges that young people face… exams, relationships and other pressures of growing up. We know that getting it right now could lead to better health later; depression which often begins before 18 increases the risk of mortality by 50%[i] and doubles the risk of coronary heart disease in adults.[ii]

We can look at the numbers to know helping young people to tackle these challenges is vital; nearly 850,000 children and young people aged between 5-16 years have a mental health disorder[iii].

So what are we doing in public health? We aim to help young people to be resilient by giving them the knowledge, skills and we hope the confidence to make the decisions that are best for them and the capacity to bounce back when if things get tough, “the transition to adulthood is a window of opportunity for changing the life course”[iv]

This isn’t about young people trying harder on their own and public health can’t do it alone, but we want to support young people in the lives they live, be responsible, and be supported by resilient families, in resilient communities and learning at resilient schools.

We know there’s not just one approach, each person will require different support at different times, but whatever kind of resilience is needed, public health can help build resources for young people to draw on when they need it.

School nurses and their teams are crucial in terms of providing early help - their skills and expertise in this area often means we avoid young people getting into crisis. School nurses working with parents, schools and wider stakeholder can really make a difference to YP

School nursing vision:

Emotional health and wellbeing pathway:

Michael O'Kane, Programme Manager, Adolescent Resilience, Children, Young People and Families team, Public Health England


[1] Mykletun A, Bjerkeset O, Overland S, Prince M, Dewey M, and Stewart R (2009). Levels of anxiety and depression as predictors of mortality: the HUNT study. British Journal of Psychiatry 195: 118-125.

[1] 318: 1460–1467; Nicholson A, Kuper H and Hemingway H (2006). Depression as an aetiologic and prognostic factor in coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis of 6362 events among 146 538 participants in 54 observational studies. European Heart Journal 27: 2763–2774.

[1] Green H, McGinnity A, Meltzer H, Ford T, Goodman R (2005). Mental health of children and young people in Great Britain, 2004.

[1] Masten et al (2004)

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