We’ve only just begun

Action to improve young people’s mental health, education and employment

The transition to adulthood is a tumultuous time: leaving education, entering the labour market, living independent of family and managing one’s finances all come with their stresses and strains. But this crucial part of the life course can be especially challenging for young people with mental health problems who are more likely to struggle in the adult world than their healthier peers. Poor mental health can blight young people’s experience of education, for example; hamper their finding a job in the first instance; and constrain their ability to flourish in the labour market thereafter. This matters not just for young people’s living standards in the here- and- now: there is a well-established ‘scarring’ effect that a bumpy start to adulthood can have on one’s long-term life chances.  

This report is the culmination of a three-year research programme exploring the relationship between the mental health and work outcomes of young people, funded by the Health Foundation and part of their broader Young people’s future health inquiry. Over that time, we have examined issues such as how mental health and insecure work collide; why low hours are so prevalent for young workers today; and the intersection between young people’s mental health, employment and geography. Here, we bring that body of work together with new quantitative analysis and the findings from three focus groups we held in early 2024 to answer the critical question: what policy change is required if the growing number of young people with mental health problems are to thrive in the world of work today?