Young people and psychosis: Our new research says they are unaware of warning signs despite being most at risk

09 October 2023

Rethink Mental Illness' bid to raise awareness of psychosis among young people as they start university, often a time of stress and change which can trigger mental health problems.

  • Psychosis affects 1 in 100 people and the first episode is most likely to happen aged 18-24
  • New research says that fewer than 1 in 5 (17%) young people would be confident in spotting early signs and 1 in 4 (26%) had never heard of it

As young people across the country head off to university, charity Rethink Mental Illness is calling on young people to be aware of the early signs of psychosis, a mental health problem affecting 1 in 100. Early signs can include withdrawing from friends, expressing unusual beliefs or saying they can see or hear things that aren’t real.

New YouGov research shows that among young people aged 16 to 25:

  • Only a third (31%) would know where to get help if they or someone they knew were showing signs of psychosis
  • Over half (56%) think it’s less common than it is
  • Fewer than half said they were not confident they would be able to spot specific symptoms like hallucinations (47%) and delusions (42%)

Brian Dow, deputy CEO at Rethink Mental Illness says: “Going off to university is an exciting time but it’s also a time of huge changes. We hear from lots of people who first encountered mental health problems while at university, but they and their friends were unaware of what was going on. It’s important for everyone to know where to turn if they need help, but many students don’t think to sign up to their university’s GP.  We would urge everyone to look out for your friends – if they are showing any of the early signs then encourage them to see their GP or go to A&E if you are worried about their immediate safety.”

Robin Murray, Professor of Psychiatric Research at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, said: “You can experience psychosis for a wide variety of reasons. For example, it can be due to having a mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It may be caused by drug use or extreme stress. Being aware of the early signs is a crucial first step in people getting the help they need.”

Luke, 26, from Dorset said: “I first started having symptoms of psychosis when I was at school, and at university things got worse and worse. I didn’t tell anyone about what was happening and eventually I had to quit uni. I thought that if I could keep it to myself, I would have ownership of it. But now I know the opposite is true. By accepting help I’m now able to manage my psychosis.”

Luke sought support through talking therapy and a Rethink Mental Illness support group in his local area. 


For more information contact the Rethink Mental Illness media team on 0207 840 3138 or

Notes to editors

About the Research

All new figures in this press release, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 469 adults (aged 16 to 25). Fieldwork was undertaken between 20 and 24 August 2018. The survey was carried out online.

About Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Illness is a leading charity provider of mental health services in England. They support tens of thousands of people through groups, services and advice and information. they train employees, employers and members of the public on how best to support someone affected by mental illness. All of this work guides their campaigning for the rights of people with mental illness and their carers.

Rethink Mental Illness runs an advice and information service for people who are affected by mental illness. Lines are open 09:30am-4pm Monday to Friday (excluding Bank Holidays) and the number is 0300 5000 927 or you can email

Together with the charity Mind, Rethink Mental Illness also runs Time to Change, a growing movement of people changing how we all think and act about mental health problems.

Rethink Mental Illness is part of Mental Health UK, a network of four charities, together with Hafal in Wales, Support in Mind Scotland, and MindWise in Northern Ireland.

For access to a range of free images to accompany mental health news stories please visit: These images have been developed by Time to Change.

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