In an era where youth mental health is a growing concern, the OxWell Student Survey emerged as a transformative initiative. Powered by the University of Oxford's Department of Psychiatry and backed by the NIHR ARC OxTV, this annual survey delves deep into the experiences of young individuals aged 9-18 across England.
The Need for the Survey in the COVID-19 Era
The NHS Long Term Plan had already highlighted the importance of Child and adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)However, the pandemic intensified the urgency. The 2020 OxWell Survey unveiled alarming trends: 14% of students showed signs of clinical depression, 10% for anxiety, and 38% felt their mental well-being deteriorated during lockdown. These figures underscored the pressing need for robust mental health support, especially amidst the pandemic's challenges. Subsequent surveys in 2021 and 2023 have been able to closely track current trends.
From Research to Real-world Impact
The OxWell Survey transcends academic boundaries. It influences school policies, national mental health strategies, and more. Its strength lies in converting research into actionable insights, aiding schools, local authorities, and policymakers in making informed decisions.
In Schools and Beyond
Schools receive tailored reports from the survey, leading to tangible changes like revised bullying policies and increased support against maltreatment. Beyond schools, local authorities utilise the data for targeted interventions. For instance, OxWell's insights have shaped mental health interventions in Buckinghamshire and spurred Liverpool to allocate funds for school-based mental health innovations.
National and International Influence
Nationally, the survey's findings have been presented at esteemed forums like the Times Education Commission and even the Prime Minister’s Round Table on Child and Adolescent Mental Health. Internationally, its insights on self-harm have been showcased at global conferences, hinting at its potential to influence global youth mental health policies.
Dissemination and Engagement
The OxWell Survey's outreach strategy is comprehensive. It's been featured in over 20 media appearances, has a strong online presence with over 7,000 website visits, and even engages with youth on platforms like TikTok.
Driving Change in Practice and Policy
The survey's data is a catalyst for change – it's guiding improvements in mental health services, educational settings, and public health initiatives. For instance, its revelation that fewer than 10% of students seek online help for self-harm has sparked discussions on making mental health services more youth-friendly.
Beyond Immediate Impact
The OxWell Survey is also championing equity, scalability, and sustainability. It's set to expand its reach to Special Schools in 2023 and aims to include primary schools in its 2025 iteration. Moreover, it's fostering academic collaboration, with researchers from nine universities leveraging its data.
The OxWell Student Survey has established itself as a pivotal instrument in understanding and advocating for youth mental well-being. As we move into an era marked by digital influence and socio-economic challenges, the 2023 data emerges as a potentially crucial resource. The findings touch on contemporary issues such as social media impacts, eating disorders, and poverty, shedding light on the complex factors affecting youth today.
The Path Forward
The OxWell Student Survey is undeniably a force for positive change in youth mental health and education, and its journey is far from over. However, the journey ahead hinges significantly on securing further funding.
A financially stable foundation is critical for OxWell to continue its important work turning data into insights that positively impact young lives. Sustainable funding allows OxWell to explore new research, evolve as a project, magnifying its influence on youth mental health and education.
However, it’s not just ‘the research’ that needs support. Funding is also vital to enable the dissemination and outreach of OxWell's trove of insights to health, care, and education institutions hungry for informed decision-making.
With the proper support and resources, OxWell can fully realise its potential as a cornerstone for progressive beneficial change for young p[people, by translating research into real-world impact. The careful, independent work required takes people, skills, materials and time. By building a sustainable financial backbone, OxWell can share findings widely, foster extensive collaborations, and drive policy and practice changes.