A “very, very large proportion” of the health problems of young people is mental illness, says Wood. “By the age of 25, 75% of mental illnesses have already had their onset. It may even be younger than that. And why that should be is still not completely clear.”
It may be partly problems of development, or genes. But also, teenagers and young adults have to deal with a lot of major changes in their lives. “For example,” says Wood, “the change between primary and secondary school is hard. You go from being the biggest kid in school and knowing how everything works, to being the smallest kid and knowing nothing.” We don’t deal very well with changes like that at any point in our lives, he says – moving jobs or cities leaves adults vulnerable to mental health problems, too.
“Mental health research is the big thing at the moment, and it’s what makes this field so exciting,” says Stein. “It’s all about finding ways of preventing problems further down the line.
“Being a teenager is a stressful time, even for the most resilient of temperaments. But a lot of this stuff can be tempered, and I think resilience can be taught. A lot of the stuff we deal with is about helping individuals and their families cope with the emotional turmoil of teenage years.”
Wood’s own university, Birmingham, has a specialist youth mental health system, called Forward Thinking Birmingham. The mental health charity Mind also has a resource page for children and young people.