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Prevention and early intervention is key as the number of under-19s seeking help mental health support increases 55 per cent over last two years

11 February 2022

The number of under-19s seeking mental health treatment and support has increased by 55 per cent over the last two years, with an urgent focus needed on prevention and early intervention, says the BPS.

New NHS data analysed by the BPS has revealed that the number of under-19s in contact with children and young people’s mental health services has risen by 55 per cent over the last two years, with 357,802 seeking help at the end of November 2021, compared to 230,739 at the end of November 2019.

The analysis also found that under-19s made up 24 per cent of the total number of people in contact with mental health services at the end of November 2021, up from 17 per cent at the end of November 2019.

The soaring numbers of under-19s seeking help come during Children's Mental Health Week and highlight the urgent need for the government to invest in services and the psychological workforce, particularly early intervention services. Staff shortages and years of funding cuts, exacerbated by the pandemic, mean that children’s mental health services can often only take the most severe cases. This leaves many who need help waiting for months to receive the support they need, whereas early intervention could dramatically improve outcomes for children, young people and their families.

Dr Helen Griffiths, chair of the BPS’ Division of Clinical Psychology’s Faculty for Children, Young People, and their Families, said:

“We know that our children and young people’s mental health has been hit hard during the pandemic, with educational pressures and reduced social opportunities, both of which play a significant part in development and wellbeing. More children and young people than ever before are attempting to access mental health services, and despite investment, many are unable to get the help they so desperately need.

 “We know that early intervention is critical to improving outcomes for children and young people and their families, and we need to keep building on initiatives such as early intervention hubs and mental health support teams, in addition to investing in specialist services.

“Additional funding announcements dedicated to children’s and young people’s services made by NHS England this year have been welcome, in addition to commitments to expanding the workforce and addressing parity of esteem between mental and physical health. But, given that the onset of almost three-quarters of mental health difficulties occurs before age 25, more funding and focus needs to be directed into preventative and early intervention work.”

The data about people in contact with children and young people’s mental health services was published by NHS Digital on 10 February 2022, 11 February 2021 and 13 February 2020

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