Number of young people receiving mental health support rises to 240,000
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
The number of young people in contact with mental health services has passed the 240,000 mark, it has emerged.
Figures published by the NHS show that at the end of February this year, there were 240,020 under-19s in contact with mental health services.
This is a rise of 7.3 per cent on the figure for March 2016 of 223,680.
The figures show that at the end of February, under-19s accounted for a fifth (20.7 per cent) of all those making contact with mental health services. There were 42,729 new referrals during February.
There has been a particular increase in the number of young people seeking help for eating disorders. Between January and the end of March this year, there were 1,635 new referrals for under-19s with eating disorders, compared with 604 new referrals over the same period in 2016.
Young Minds chief executive Sarah Brennan blamed cuts to early intervention support over a number of years for the rise in demand for mental health support among young people. She also called for the next government to ensure schools do more to support children's mental health and emotional wellbeing.
"As a society, we need to do far more to prevent mental health problems from developing in the first place," she said.
"To start with, we hope the next government will rebalance our education system, so that schools are encouraged to prioritise wellbeing and not just exam results," she said.
"These figures also show the continuing impact of cuts to early intervention services several years ago. Early intervention must be a priority, so that problems are dealt with when they first emerge."
Hadyn Williams, chief executive of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), said: "These figures only serve to further highlight the need for school-based counselling."
"We believe that all children and young people of school age across the UK should have equal access to professional, qualified counselling services in their schools. Which is why school-based counselling is something that BACP has long campaigned for.
"Children in Northern Ireland and Wales have access to a school counsellor through government supported national programmes, while in England provision remains patchy."
According to a survey published this week, a third of NHS mental health workers said their service is experiencing cutbacks or facing closure.
This comes in spite of a government commitment through its Future in Mind initiative to spend an extra £1.4bn to improve child and adolescent mental health services by 2020.
Ahead of next month's general election, the Conservative Party manifesto includes a pledge to publish a green paper on young people's mental health by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Labour has promised to spend £90m a year on expanding school-based counselling and the Liberal Democrats' manifesto offers a guarantee that no young person will wait more than two weeks for treatment when they experience their first episode of psychosis.