At the start of Mental Health Awareness Week we look at the links to wellbeing, which lie at the heart of our work with young people.

Wellbeing is the new buzz word. It’s everywhere; and rightly so. 

According to the Children’s Commissioner, in 2017 580,000 children were receiving support with a mental health problem. Reports such as this, showing rising levels of mental health problems in young people, has focused society’s interest in what is causing poor mental wellbeing.

The problem with viewing wellbeing from a negative perspective is that it encourages us to think of wellbeing in a binary way –that  you either have mental health problems or you don’t, that you are either well or you are not. This isn’t true.

Wellbeing affects all of us, at all stages in our lives. It is central to everything we do and influences how happy we are, our physical health, our work and our relationships. We all have times in our lives when our wellbeing is low – and statistics show it is happening to more of us. This isn’t a problem that affects particular groups in society, though our circumstances do affect how well we cope with poor wellbeing.

At Brathay, we’ve been talking about wellbeing for years. We define it as Feeling Good, Functioning Well. Those of us who work with young people know that numbers reported in official surveys are the tip of the iceberg. Overstretched services are only able to support those with the most acute need, and as a result millions of young people experiencing stress or anxiety rely on non-specialist support such as parents or teachers. They are the lucky ones; many have no support at all.

And it isn’t just young people. The 2017 report ‘Thriving at work’ is the result of an independent review initiated by the Prime Minister. It claims poor workplace wellbeing is costing employers over £33billion and the human cost is even greater.

But it is not all doom and gloom. The report also states that areas “where investments have been made in improving mental health show a consistently positive return on investment.”  Brathay’s model of youth development also shows a direct link between wellbeing and positive outcomes such as healthy relationships, engaging in education and social action.

Ignore wellbeing at your peril! It is the challenge of our age.