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Significant rise in mental health issues among young people, research reveals

The proportion of children and young people saying they have a mental health condition has grown six fold in England, research reveals.

In 1995, just 0.8% of 4-24 year olds in England reported a long-standing mental health condition. By 2014 this had increased to 4.8%.

That’s according to the first national-level study in over a decade to investigate trends in mental health problems in children and young people in the UK.

Researchers analysed data from 140,830 participants aged between 4 and 24 years, in 36 national surveys in England, Scotland and Wales over time.

Key findings include:

  • Between 1995 and 2014 the proportion of children and young people aged 4-24 in England reporting a long-standing mental health condition increased six fold, meaning that by 2014 almost one in twenty children and young people in England reported having a mental health condition.
  • In 2008, when comparable data from the other two countries was available, 3% of 4-24 year olds in England and 3.7% in Scotland said they had a long-standing mental health condition, with 2.9% of 4-24 year olds in Wales saying they had received treatment. By 2014 these figures had grown to 4.8% in England, 6.5% in Scotland and 4.1% in Wales.
  • The age group with the biggest increases were young people aged 16-24, with young people in England almost 10 times more likely to report a long-standing mental health condition in 2014 than in 1995 (5.9% vs. 0.6%).
  • Young boys aged 4-12 were consistently more likely to report a long-standing mental health condition than young girls. This was true across all countries. There was less of a consistent gender pattern in the 12-15 and 16-24 age groups.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Dougal Hargreaves of Imperial College London and a Visiting Research Analyst at the Nuffield Trust said: “We know that there is already a growing crisis in the availability of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, with many more children and young people needing treatment than there are services to provide it. Our study suggests that this need is likely to continue to grow in future.

“Without more radical action to improve access to and funding for CAMHS, as well as a wider strategy to promote positive mental health and wellbeing, we may be letting down some of the most vulnerable in society.”

The study is a collaboration between academics at University College London, Imperial College London, Exeter University and the Nuffield Trust.

Dr Max Davie, Officer for Health Promotion for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said: “We know there has been some response to the mental health crisis by the Government with a recent investment in mental health support staff in schools, but without services providing adequate support for all children, regardless of condition or how they enter the system, there is absolutely no way that we will be able to climb out of the dark hole we currently find ourselves in.

“As this study highlights, more children are talking about mental health, showing the stigma is starting to shift, but without the services to support growing patient numbers it brings, children are left with nowhere to turn.”

Read the full article.

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