Our approach

At Mentor, we take a holistic approach to preventing the misuse of alcohol and drugs. We work closely with partners in the public, private, voluntary and independent sectors to provide community-based support for children and the adults in their lives.

Our approach is rooted in building young people’s resilience, helping them develop the life skills they need in order to negotiate challenging situations. We provide children and young people with age-appropriate knowledge and skills coupled with positive health values to help them build the self-confidence to make their own decisions.

Our work is based on the best international scientific evidence, helping to create a future generation of resilient young people equipped to thrive in the modern world.

Our approach consists of three key elements:


At the heart of our work are the evidence-based programmes that we deliver in a variety of settings for different groups of young people, as well as the adults in their lives. We run programmes both independently and in partnership with organisations across England and Scotland.


Building our evidence base of ‘what works’ in prevention is vital to ensuring our work is effective, and underpins all that we do. Mentor developed ADEPIS, the leading source of alcohol and drug education resources for schools, and now maintains the CAYT repository of impact studies of evidence-based programmes.


As the UK’s leading voice in drug and alcohol prevention, we often contribute to or are referenced in drug and alcohol policies in the UK. We also conduct policy analysis and research, which informs our blogs, and lead national campaigns.


We believe the best strategy for supporting the immediate and long-term well-being of children and young people is through a holistic, life-course approach to prevention. This approach considers the many inter-related risks young people face and supports effective, evidence-based prevention in the home, at school and in the community.

As a prevention charity, our work is all about reducing future needs. We want to shift resources from approaches which have been shown not to work to ones that do. Attempting to scare young people away from drugs is simply a waste of time and money.

The social and economic consequences of drink and drug misuse are huge. Public Health England estimates that drug and alcohol harm costs the UK £36.4 billion every year – including £4 billion in NHS costs alone – yet we barely spend anything trying to prevent this catastrophe. The NHS spends only 4% of its total budget on preventing ill health.

Mentor is working for an effective, comprehensive and national prevention strategy, through families, schools and communities. No magic bullet can prevent a young person experimenting with alcohol or drugs but we want to create a prevention ‘ecosystem’ in the UK which increases protective factors and reduces risks.

The importance of evidence

“Evidence-based practice” – meaning “best practice” or “with well-supported evidence” – is a crucial element in policy development and the implementation of programmes in the prevention field. When selecting prevention programmes for young people, policy makers, practitioners and health and education professionals need easy access to reliable and independently validated information.

Mentor advocates for programmes that have been proven by hard evidence to change young people’s attitudes and behaviour to alcohol and drugs and to (re)engage them in education, training, volunteering and work.

Building resilience

One of the central themes underpinning our work is building children and young people’s resilience to negative risks – that is, their ability to navigate and overcome potentially harmful situations and avoid dangerous risk-taking, without sacrificing potentially enriching ‘positive risks’ (such as skydiving or participating in athletic events).

Resilience is an important protective factor that helps prevent and lower the impact of a range of risks, including substance misuse, as well as mental ill health, criminal behaviour and sexual exploitation.

Resilience is the capacity to 'bounce back' or recover from difficult situations and events.

In order to help prepare children and young people for the challenges they may face, we provide them with the appropriate knowledge, skills and values to make healthier choices and lead more successful lives. This forms the basis of ‘life skills’ education, which aims to equip young people with the capacity for “adaptive and positive behaviours that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life” (as defined by the World Health Organisation).


Further reading

Read the 2007 Home Office report: Risk, protective factors and resilience to drug use: identifying resilient young people and learning from their experiences.

Read the 2015 ADEPIS briefing paper: Building resilience and character in young people.

Download the Mentor one-pager