Young people wait a decade for mental health support

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Children and young people have an average 10-year wait for mental health support, according to a report published by the Centre for Mental Health.

The report, Missed Opportunities , has found that mental health problems are common among people aged 25 years and younger in the UK. However, a lack of awareness and difficulty in seeking help means they wait an average of 10 years before receiving support for their conditions.

Behavioural problems are the most common mental health problems among children, with one in every 20 affected. The report reveals that boys are more likely to have behavioural problems earlier on in life while girls are more likely to experience emotional problems during their teenage years.

Children who have been subjected to neglect and abuse, children who are bullied or who bully, and children whose parents have mental health problems were found to be at the greatest risk of developing poor mental health.

The report has found there are major barriers preventing children and their parents from getting help for mental health problems. These include stigma surrounding mental health, poor mental health literacy, and a perception of services as ‘off-putting, unappealing’ and ‘frightening’.

Lorraine Khan, Associate Director for Children and Young People at the Centre for Mental Health and author of the report, said: ‘Waiting for a child’s mental health to deteriorate until it hits crisis point causes untold distress and damage to their lives and carries a heavy social and economic cost.

‘We need to take every opportunity to support families and schools to build firm foundations for children’s mental health. We need to raise awareness of the first signs of poor mental health and reinforce the importance of getting early help. And we need to offer effective and young people friendly help for every child of any age at the first signs of difficulty.’