A steep rise in the number of young people highlights the need for school children to have better access to professional counselling services.

Jo Holmes, our Children, Young People and Families Lead, urged the government to invest in school counselling to support young people before they reach crisis point.

And she also called on the government to expand the mental health workforce in the NHS and the third sector to support those experiencing mental health problems.

NHS data

New NHS data, which was analysed by the PA news agency, shows a 39% rise in a year in England for referrals for NHS mental health treatment for under-18s to 1,169,515 in 2021/22.

This compares to 2020/21 when the figure was 839,570. In 2019/20 there were 850,741 referrals.

The data includes children who are suicidal, self-harming, suffering serious depression or anxiety, and have eating disorders.

We’ve long campaigned for government-funded counselling support in every secondary school, academy, and further education college in England, provided by qualified and paid staff.

We’re due to meet Claire Coutinho, the recently appointed Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing. We’ll reemphasise the need for government to urgently invest in school counselling services and to use our 19,000 members in England who are trained to work therapeutically with children and young people.

We’ve also joined other charities and organisations – including Mind, Young Minds, Black Thrive, The Children’s Society, Youth Access and the Children and Young people’s Mental Health Coalition – to support the Fund the Hubs campaign. This aims to provide a range of much-needed accessible services for children and young people in community settings, including access to free counselling.


Jo said: “These alarming figures highlight the need for school children and young people to have access to government-funded universally available counselling provision.

“School counselling offers them a safe and supportive space to discuss issues that affect their mental health and explore positive ways of coping with these emotions.

“We know that speaking to a school counsellor can be a transformative experience for children and young people. It can help them cope with the difficult circumstances they face in their lives – and to go on and flourish in the future.

“It’s vital that better support is available for our children and young people before they reach crisis point, to ease the strain on NHS services, and to help the many more who may be suffering in silence.

Universal access

“There is a trained counselling and psychotherapy workforce that can meet the demand if funding was available for universal access in all schools and colleges.

Jo added: “And we also need investment now to expand the mental health workforce, not only in schools but also in the NHS, charities, and voluntary services to support those who are experiencing mental health problems.

“The government needs to act now to prevent the increasing pressure overwhelming mental health services in years to come.”