Mental health disorders are increasing fastest in young people aged between 13 and 24. Research is severely underfunded and treatment is based mostly on research in adults.

BrainWaves is a major response to this growing youth mental health crisis. Led by experts at the University of Oxford, BrainWaves is building the evidence base and resources to power new research and ensure schools become more effective environments for developing wellbeing in young people.

BrainWaves will open a new chapter on adolescent mental health and wellbeing by:

  • Launching a new, rolling research cohort from a diverse group of UK secondary schools to enhance the evidence base in adolescent mental health
  • Providing cutting-edge, evidence-backed educational resources for teachers and students
  • Giving researchers in the UK and globally free access to vital data assets, enabling new insights into prevention and treatment
  • Designing effective therapeutic interventions focused on what’s best for young people

At the heart of the long-term BrainWaves programme is the creation of a new research platform which will combine data from different sources, including one of the largest ever cohort studies of young people. The free-to-access BrainWaves informatics hub will increase in value over time as it provides a sophisticated framework for future research in areas such as genetics, neuroscience and at-scale therapeutic interventions.

And while there is plenty of general information in circulation about mental health and wellbeing, there is disproportionately little high-quality, evidence-based material where it matters most: for school-age young people. BrainWaves’ free teaching resources, including short films, graphics, interactive exercises and lesson plans, will be developed in partnership with affiliate schools – and, crucially, with young people themselves – and will be professionally accredited.

BrainWaves’ work will lead to better prevention, education and treatment in adolescent mental health and wellbeing – backed by the best and newest scientific evidence.

Mina Fazel, Professor of Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Oxford and one of BrainWaves’ academic leads, said: ‘This funding from Syncona has already been of huge benefit to BrainWaves, allowing us to recruit two postdoctoral researchers to the project. Those researchers will set up the new study of adolescent mental health and ensure that we learn what young people want and need, and base our planned interventions on the best evidence base. They will also begin setting up our schools trial platform for interventions in important areas such as sleep and ensure they are properly evaluated.’

Find out more by visiting or following BrainWaves on Twitter @oubrainwaves.

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