Growing crisis in children’s mental health

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Close to a quarter of a million children and young people are receiving help from NHS mental health services in England, new figures show.

The Guardian has revealed data from NHS Digital, covering 60% of the country’s mental health trusts, that show in June this year 235,189 people aged 18 and under were receiving specialist care for psychological and psychiatric problems. Of these, 11,849 were aged 5 and under, 53,659 were between the ages of 6 and 10, just over 100,000 were aged 11 to 15, and 69,505 were aged 16 to 18.

Experts say growing pressures on young people – including academic, social and economic pressures – are to blame for the increasing burden of mental illness in school-age children and young adults.

Responding to the figures, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the government was funding an expansion of mental health services as part of the £1.4 billion pledged for improved support for troubled children.

He said: ‘Tackling the problems of mental ill health in children and young people is a priority for this government and I welcome the Guardian’s focus on this important area.’

Luciana Berger, President of the Labour campaign for mental health and a former Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health, said: ‘These new figures shine a spotlight on the extent of the demand for mental health treatment, particularly when we know there are thousands of children who are being turned away because thresholds to access services are out of reach for too many.’

NHS England commented: ‘We know that increasing numbers of children and young people are accessing mental health services across the country.

It’s an absolute priority for us that these vulnerable children and young people are provided with the best services possible and the additional £1.25 billion, which started to go into the NHS in 2015, is helping us to kick-start this upgrade in care.’

Last week an NHS inquiry found that self-harm and post-traumatic stress disorder had risen in young women, while the counselling service Childline says it saw a significant rise in the number of calls it received about young people’s mental health in 2015/16.