Professor of Health Humanities from the School of Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham and RSPH Fellow, Paul Crawford, outlines the campaign he has led, ‘What’s Up With Everyone?’, to support young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Experts from the University of Nottingham and Aardman, the award-winning studio, joined forces on a campaign to support young people with their mental wellbeing. The campaign, ‘What’s Up With Everyone?’,  has launched a series of short animations, which each explore a different aspect of the lives of young people aged 17 to 24, that can have a negative effect on their mental wellbeing.

The films introduce five characters who are all contending with an issue that can affect young people; loneliness, social media, competitiveness, independence and perfectionism. The campaign was created with involvement from young people, to ensure that the films authentically reflect the concerns and challenges that they face.

The campaign was supported by Dr Sachiyo ito-Jaeger and Dr Elvira Perez Vallejos from the University of Nottingham, along with research teams including Loughborough University, the London School of Economics and Politics; the Mental Health Foundation and mental wellbeing charity, Happy Space; and with young people's mental health expert, Dr Dominique Thompson.

Throughout lockdown, the mental health of young people and the lack of support that is readily available for them has been extremely worrying. Contending with school and higher education closures, anxieties about their futures and increased isolation from their friends and networks, it’s no wonder that there has been a marked increase in young people reporting that they’ve experienced mental health issues. There have been reports that two-thirds of young people have experienced worse mental health during lockdown and research conducted in May 2020 from RSPH found that 70% of 18 to 24 year olds have felt anxious about the future more often than normal (compared with 47% of over 75s).

Easy to access mental health support for young people has arguably never been needed more than it is now. As well as the films, the ‘What’s Up With Everyone?’ campaign also has links to resources for young people to access if they need support with their mental wellbeing and advice for practical steps they can take to help improve their day-to-day mental wellbeing.

These wonderful short animated stories should help all our young people to think about, and explore solutions to the kind of mental health challenges that come with difficult life transitions, such as heading off to university or college or starting in training or employment. The films and supporting online resources will be very welcome at this time, with all the disruption and anxieties in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

We encourage everyone to visit the ‘What’s Up With Everyone?’ campaign and share the resources with as many young people as possible, to help encourage healthy and positive conversations about mental wellbeing.