Mental Wellbeing Revolution

Ireland’s youth call for a “Mental Wellbeing Revolution” as 70% of young people say youth work gives them someone to talk to when they have a problem.

  • Research shows for the first time that youth work fosters vital connections and improves mental wellbeing of Ireland’s youth with 3 in 4 surveyed experiencing a sense of social support via youth work
  • In a time of concern about what is not working, Youth Work Ireland calls on policymakers and government to recognise the enormous positive impact of youth work on young people’s wellbeing.

At a time when youth and adolescent mental health services appear to be in crisis, Youth Work Ireland, has launched a new long-term campaign “Mental Wellbeing Revolution” designed to spotlight the vital role that youth work plays in improving mental wellbeing wellbeing outcomes for young people throughout Ireland. Along with our Members and youth advocates we are calling for recognition of the vital contribution youth work makes to improving mental wellbeing outcomes for young people throughout Ireland – a fact they say can no longer be ignored. 

New peer-reviewed research published in a special edition of the Journal of Youth Voice and focused on measuring outcomes in youth work, demonstrates for the first time that everyday youth work in Youth Work Ireland services is proven to improve young people’s mental wellbeing. Carried out by Dr Leighann Ryan Culleton from Wrexham Glyndŵr University, this new research specifically indicates that youth work builds meaning and connection. 

Our services engage with young people all over Ireland who have lower levels of connection, meaning and positive emotion than the general population of Irish young people. This new study shows that after engaging with Youth Work Ireland, these young people’s level of connection, support, positive emotion and meaning are all higher.  Other standout results from the research indicate that after engaging in youth work: 

  • Almost three quarters of young people say that they have friends who really care about them
  • 68% of young people reported experiencing positive emotion in their daily lives
  • 2 in 3 young people experience a sense of accomplishment and meaning in their daily lives

Working with our Member Youth Services we engage over 76,000 young people weekly, providing services that support young people to make connections that support their wellbeing. Together we provide over 40 different specialised one-to-one listening, information provision and advocacy support services that specifically address mental wellbeing, over 20 youth-led mental wellbeing advocacy campaigns, and at least 13 therapeutic and counselling support services. We also reached over 4000 young people in 2022 via 20 specialist mental wellbeing promotion programmes, including the ‘Friends for Life’ intervention recognised as gold-standard by the World Health Organisation.

Dr Ryan Culleton spoke to young people across Ireland for her research including those who participated in youth clubs, initiatives and programmes, and those who did not. Speaking about the research Dr Leighann Ryan Culleton, Wrexham Glyndŵr University, said 

“My research clearly and directly demonstrates the significant role youth work plays in supporting young people’s wellbeing. What is particularly striking is that it demonstrates how youth work enhances and cultivates positive emotions, engagement, supportive relationships and meaning in the lives of young people who participate. These are significant and important findings given the abundance of  evidence highlighting that a strong sense of wellbeing contributes to good mental health, acting as a guardian of our mental health’’.

Speaking at the launch, Doireann Walsh, Chair of Youth Work Ireland’s Youth Participation Panel said:

“The “Mental Wellbeing Revolution” campaign is a true reflection of Youth Work Ireland’s commitment to the core principles of youth work with our youth panel being involved from the conception to the launch of this campaign across all its aspects including visual identity, branding, key messaging, communications outputs and policy decisions. Through the campaign we want to show that youth work is not only an everyday support for wellbeing but also a specialist service advisor. Youth Work Ireland is now calling for young people like us as well as staff in its services to be involved as partners in policy and service development at the local, regional and national level, in order to implement decisions that are proven to positively impact our future wellbeing.” 

Youth Work Ireland has evolved alongside significant changes in practice over recent years but has always maintained youth work’s core principles of voluntary participation, working in partnership with young people, involving young people in decision-making, empowering young people and respect, equality and inclusion of all young people. It now comprises a network of over 150 projects and services and over 300 youth clubs across Ireland. Weekly, they actively engage with and support over 76,000 young people. The “Mental Wellbeing Revolution” campaign is a youth participation project funded by Erasmus+ through national agency Leargas