Young people want social media platforms to do much more to protect their mental health and emotional wellbeing, says a report out today.

Their recommendations, from the project MH:2K, include making accounts automatically private so that young people understand their responsibility for making them public, an option to hide likes, followers and comments, and a ‘social media mental health service’ so that they can access support on the platforms they’re using.There should also be a specific button to report cyber-bullying, and stricter age limits to protect younger children, say young people.

In the biggest youth-led project on mental health ever undertaken in the UK, young people also highlighted the need to educate their parents, guardians and carers on mental health, provide compulsory education on mental health for young people in schools, and offer more targeted support to religious and cultural communities. On mental health services, they called for easier and more varied access routes, greater support for young people on waiting lists, and better continuity of care. They underlined the need for much more accessible information on where to go for help and what young people can do to help themselves.

The recommendations come from the project MH:2K, which has seen 127 diverse young people from five areas of England engage over 3,400 of their peers to find out what more can be done to prevent and tackle youth mental ill-health.

They identified six themes as critical - schools, colleges and universities, mental health services, professionals, communities, families and social media – also highlighting the importance of changes to support LGBTQ+ young people, young men, young carers and young people with a physical or learning disability.

Read the MH:2K national recommendations

“Young people should be at the heart of decision-making on youth mental health and emotional wellbeing. They have a unique and vital perspective not only on the challenges they face, but also on what will work to solve them. MH:2K demonstrates the importance of harnessing young people’s potential as leaders on this issue, and the significant benefits it can bring to decision-makers, researchers and young people themselves.”

Joint statement from Involve and Leaders Unlocked who ran the project together.

The recommendations, which paint a compelling picture of what a mentally healthy area would look like from young people’s perspectives, have been welcomed by individuals and organisations working on the issue.

“I welcome this considered report from Involve and Leaders Unlocked, which draws some important points out of its consultation with thousands of young people from across England. The recommendations in the report echo many of the conclusions which the Health Committee came to in its joint inquiry with the Education Committee. I hope people will find this report a useful resource which will lead to real change which will benefit young people.”

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee

“Momentum is building around the need to make young people’s mental health a national priority – in health services, schools, communities and within families. But if we want to turn the growing public consensus into effective action, we must understand the views – and priorities - of young people themselves.  Being involved in this project, it was truly inspiring to see young people working as ‘citizen researchers’ to interrogate, challenge and spark new ideas in the area. This impressive community engagement project sheds light on the issues that matter – and sets out innovative approaches to prevent and tackle young people’s mental health.”

Sophie Dix, Director of Research at mental health research charity MQ

“The Government is making positive strides but still has a long way to go to realise its vision to radically transform child and adolescent mental health services. Much more needs to be done to provide person-centred help quickly, and to offer more flexible and preventative services. This initiative shows by embracing the views of young people across the country, we can pursue greater change across the whole system whilst promoting a ‘nothing about us without us – together we can’ approach.”

Professor Dame Sue Bailey, Chair of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition

The project has already had significant impact. 98.5% of decision-makers and researchers who’ve attended its events so far say they will do something new or differently as a result of the project. 86% and 82% of the young people who co-led the project report greater optimism about the future and increased feelings of wellbeing.

The young people who participated in MH:2K came from Birmingham, Central Lancashire, North Tyneside, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire and Oldham. The project was funded by the Wellcome Trust and participating local areas. Its recommendations are based on existing practice that works and areas where change is needed.