We know we face a youth mental health crisis.

The number of young people aged 6-16 with a probable mental health condition has increased from one in nine in 2017, to one in six this year, in part fuelled by the challenges of the pandemic.

NHS Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services have faced increasing pressures, from long waiting times, staff shortages, unequal provision of support, and high thresholds for young people to access support – which often leads to young people only accessing services at crisis point. When we consider that children in the poorest 20% of households are four times more likely to experience mental health issues, it’s clear that mental health services are increasingly not working for society’s most vulnerable young people.

The findings of this year’s Good Childhood Report by the Children’s Society are therefore concerning, but do not come as a surprise. This new research, published today (22nd September 2022) shows a significant decline in the wellbeing of young people over the past decade. Mean happiness scores for life as a whole, friends, appearance, and school were significantly lower than when their annual survey of children and young people began in 2009. Happiness with school and schoolwork declines significantly with age and was significantly lower among children in lower income households.

The Children’s Society recommends, among other things, that the Government urgently renews its focus on place-based prevention and early intervention to promote positive well-being for children.

At Empire Fighting Chance, we know that poor mental health is often the root cause of wider societal issues – such as school exclusion, youth violence, and youth unemployment. Research links socioeconomic disadvantage and the adverse childhood experiences which increase a child’s risk of developing mental health conditions later in life. Early intervention can help reduce the long-term, destructive outcomes of neglecting the mental health of young people facing adversity.

Improving the wellbeing of the most vulnerable young people in our society should therefore be a priority for all of us.

Taking action

Empire Fighting Chance’s three pioneering programmes combine non-contact boxing sessions with intensive personal support to tackle the effects of deprivation. One of these, our unique Boxing Therapy programme, knocks down the barriers that young people face in gaining mental health support. Developed using our expertise and community knowledge over the past 16 years, we have created an engaging and informal approach to helping young people explore their feelings and behaviours. While young people may find it hard to engage in formal therapeutic settings, they come to our sessions knowing they will be free of judgement.

We hope to see the government taking the Children’s Society’s recommendations seriously, for the sake of the wellbeing of all young people now, and for future generations.

In the meantime, we are stepping up our fight for young lives across the UK.

Since March 2022, we have teamed up with England Boxing to roll out Powered by Empire Fighting Chance, our national project to support amateur boxing clubs to deliver our Training with the Champions personal development programme and help them increase the impact they have in their local communities. We are providing free training and ongoing support to clubs who partner with us, our goal being to use our expertise to transform thousands more young lives through boxing every year.

Taking young people’s wellbeing seriously is the first step – and this is our fight.

Read more about our impact here.

Photo credit: Alex Turner