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Why we’re swearing to take on mental illness in young people

The message of our new campaign is one that I hope will make people not just stop and take notice, but stop and take action: ‘It’s time to swear to take on mental illness in young people’.

Why swearing? Because it perfectly encompasses  how so many of us feel about the state of mental healthcare today.

We are so frustrated – we cannot help but swear. Right now, far too many people facing mental illness are without effective help – and without hope that this will change.  A universal expression of both frustration and helplessness, swearing seems particularly appropriate when it comes to the plight of young people today, who so desperately need mental health support from us. 

With help from celebrities Nicola Adams, Melanie C and many more, we’re telling the world that ‘It’s time to give a **** about mental illness’.

But just as importantly, swearing also means making a solemn promise: to take on the challenge of mental illness through research – and we are asking you to take the pledge with us.

We thought long and hard about raising awareness in this way, because we’ve got no interest in shocking or offending people, or swearing for the sake of it. We want the millions of people who share our frustration to swear to take an action in taking on mental illness with us. Together, we can transform young people’s lives by supporting life-changing research into mental health.

The potential of research is vast. It can lead us towards new treatments. It can help us support young people at risk from mental illness before they fall ill. It can shift us towards a world where we approach mental illness with more clarity, more certainty and more compassion. 

Right now, our lack of understanding of mental illness is devastating young lives around the world.

Mental illness starts early, three quarters of mental illness in adults starts before age 18. As many as three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health condition. And nowhere near enough is happening to find more effective treatments or to stop mental illness from having a lifelong impact. 

Our understanding of what causes mental illness remains appallingly limited, and very few treatments exist specifically for children or teenagers. Our lack of awareness and knowledge mean that it can take as much as ten years to get the right support for many young people.

Imagine if that was the case for a physical health condition affecting the same number of people.  Imagine it routinely took a whole decade to get help, forcing young people to grow up feeling scared, confused and isolated.

It would be a national scandal – and the failure to drive mental health treatment forward is nothing short of scandalous. That’s why we’re asking everyone who’s ready to create a different future to swear with us today.

Now is the time for the next great shift in healthcare – a transformation in how we respond to mental illness, inspired by research.

We welcomed Theresa May’s recent pledge to review mental health services for children and teenagers and to increase mental health training in schools. And we recognise that serious public dialogue has been incredibly important to building support for mental health. But it’s not enough. As well as improving the services that exist for young people today, we urgently need to transform our understanding so we can treat it more effectively tomorrow. 

mental health research graphic

Of course, it will be difficult to meet this need when funding for mental health research lags so far behind that for comparable physical health conditions. Only £8 is currently spent on UK research annually for each person affected by mental illness, compared to an estimated £178 for each person affected by cancer.  This is a challenge we must address if we hope to achieve real and enduring success. 

Research has the power to transform our knowledge – and transform young people’s lives.

At MQ, we’re working to bring together the world’s best scientists and researchers, funding a wide-range of research projects to find the answers and treatments young people desperately need.

We’re investing in partnerships with organisations and charities who share our goals and we’re building a global network of scientists who can work together to push mental health research forward more quickly.

Now, to ensure we have the greatest possible impact, we need everyone who cares about mental health to swear with us.

Swear to demand more funding for mental health research. Swear to spread the word about the power of mental health research. Swear to donate to our work and help inspire new discoveries. Swear to help smash the untenable status quo.

Together we can shift the trajectory of mental health. So I hope you’ll be with us, as we swear to transform mental health in young people for good. 

Last updated: 2 October 2017

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