Mental health support for children and young people must be rapidly expanded to meet growing levels of need, says Centre for Mental Health

22 October 2020

Mental health support for children and young people must be accelerated and expanded to meet growing levels of need, Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said today.

Responding to findings from NHS Digital, Sarah Hughes said: “The significant rise in mental ill-health amongst children and young people is both undeniable and extremely concerning. While the Government have pledged more support for children and young people in schools, it is all too clear that this support must be both sped up and scaled up, to meet growing levels of need.

“The study shows clear links between family circumstances and children and young people’s mental health. Whilst greater support for children’s mental health services is necessary, a holistic approach is vital to promote good mental health from the earliest opportunity. We have long been calling for greater support for parents and investment in whole family approaches to child mental health.

“The findings once again highlight the impact of poverty and inequality on children and young people’s mental health, with far higher rates of child mental health problems in households which were struggling to pay bills.

“Attempting to increase support for young people without a cross-government approach to mental health will have limited success. Now more than ever, it is critical that government departments, the NHS and local systems come together to address mental health, not just through increased investment in individual support but by tackling the ingrained disadvantages which make some young people much more likely to face poor mental health.

“Our Commission for Equality in Mental Health has been highlighting the impact of poverty and other inequalities on the mental health of children and adults and will be sharing its conclusions in November. Our learning from the Commission has emphasised the need to strengthen our understanding of these inequalities and to unravel the factors which put children at risk of poorer mental health and the ways they intersect, compound and multiply.

“The survey also shows evidence of regional disparities in mental health problems among children, with prevalence rates ranging from 10% in London to 20.5% in the West Midlands. This requires further exploration but it is clear that more regional approaches to understanding need and investment may be needed.

“Any support for young people which does not acknowledge the wider causes of distress and deprivation, such as poverty, poor housing and discrimination, will have limited value. Now, more than ever, it is vital that a cross-government approach is taken to ensure young people are given the best chance of a mentally healthy future.”

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