Mental Health and the Role of the Youth Work Sector

Emily Carson completed her Masters Dissertation in partnership with YouthLink Scotland in 2019 on the topic of mental health and wellbeing, and the role of the youth work sector in improving those aspects of young people’s lives.

Youth worker sitting in an outdoor setting talking with a young male.


Scotland, as a “highly developed” nation, still experiences many problems with the mental health and well-being of its population, particularly for its young people. In order to address this, the Scottish government understands that a comprehensive, multi-sectoral approach will be required.

The purpose of this study is to better understand the role of the Scottish youth work sector in improving mental health and wellbeing for young people. By meeting with several key youth
workers and reviewing the programs of many youth work organizations, I sought to gain a better understanding of the ways in which the sector was successfully promoting mental health and wellbeing, as well as the possibilities for further improvements. In my research, I found that the youth work sector was working to improve mental health and well-being for young people through direct support, as well as systemic. They had a number of programs which addressed various components of mental health and well-being, including promotion of positive mental health. I additionally found that they had many unique strengths, including adaptability, inclusivity, long-term impact, and extensive partnerships. There were also areas of improvement, including sustainability, cohesive representation, and improved inclusivity.

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