Doctors back youth work role in fight against mental illness

The British Medical Association has flagged up a key role for youth workers in tackling mental health problems among vulnerable young people.

Backing the theme of Youth Work Week 2006 – children’s mental health and emotional well-being – the BMA said skilled youth workers had the ability to reach out to many of the young people most vulnerable to mental health problems.

“The skills of youth workers in engaging with young people and enabling them to get their voices heard and to influence service provision can make a big contribution to improving the situation,” said head of BMA Ethics and Science Dr Vivienne Nathanson.

“We’re calling on government to address the current shortage of mental healthcare professionals, but we also want to see services working well together, and urge youth services and child and adolescent mental health services to celebrate what they are doing together and to make sure they are using each others’ knowledge and skills to the full.”

Nathanson added that, as well as being in a position to fulfil the Youth Matters aspiration of providing every young person with someone to talk to, youth workers could also help spread the word about the mental health benefits of a having good diet and taking physical exercise.

“Youth work projects that encourage active lifestyles and healthy eating will be making a real contribution to mental health,” she said.

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