The latest NHS England figures on the mental health of children and young people (published on 29 November) are yet further evidence that the current system needs to change. Rates of poor mental health are rising, with thousands of young people seeking mental health support. Yet far too many are being told to wait whilst struggling to cope, and hitting crisis point before they are able to access help.

The report, presenting findings from a 2022 follow-up to the 2017 Mental Health of Children and Young People (MHCYP) survey, examines the mental health, household circumstances, experiences of education, employment and services of children and young people aged seven to 24 years in England.

Over the previous half-decade, the well documented rise in poor mental health amongst children and young people is stark. For young people aged 17 to 19, rates of probable mental disorder have risen from one in 10 in 2017, to one in six in 2020, and, finally, one in four in 2022. This year, 18% of surveyed children aged seven to 16, and 22% aged 17 to 24, had a probable mental condition. 

Unsurprisingly, this is exacerbated by the impacts of recent increases in the cost of living. The report found that children with a probable mental disorder were more likely to live in households that could not afford to keep the house warm enough or that had not been able to buy enough food, than those without a probable mental condition.

The conclusions arising from this data are clear – things are getting worse and the system for current mental health support is inadequate. With every month of inaction, the crisis in young people’s mental health will continue.

This is why we're calling for a national network of early support hubs in every community, and a trained professional counsellor in every secondary school, college and community hub in England. This will go some way to address the skyrocketing rates of mental ill-health in children and young people, fuelled by long waiting lists and lack of access to timely and appropriate services. The earlier the help the better, as these figures will have a lasting impact on already stretched adult provision in years to come.

Earlier this month, we wrote to the new Minister for Mental Health, Maria Caulfield MP, and the new Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, Claire Coutinho MP, to offer our support. We highlighted the important role that the expertise of our members can, and should, play in addressing the mental health crisis in children and young people. 

Following the findings of today’s report, there has never been a better time for policymakers within Government to seize the opportunity and commit to launching a ten-year Mental Health Plan. The plan must include the crucial changes that tens of thousands of young people have already called for: early support hubs, better support in schools and NHS services that meet demand.

Read the report presenting findings from a 2022 follow-up to the 2017 Mental Health of Children and Young People (MHCYP) survey.