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The proportion of young people reporting that they suffer from a mental health issue has risen sixfold, a new report has revealed.
Researchers at the University College London, Imperial College London, University of Exeter and the Nuffield Trust found that the number of children and young people in England self-diagnosed with a long-standing mental health condition increased sixfold in two decades.
The researchers analysed responses from 140,830 participants aged 4-24 across England, Scotland and Wales between 1995 and 2014. In England alone, 4.8% reported to have a long-term mental health issue in 2014 compared to just 0.8% % in 1995.
Dr Dougal Hargreaves, a visiting research analyst at the Nuffield Trust and one of the study authors said there is a ‘growing crisis’ in the availability of child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), with the proportion of children and young people in need of treatment being greater than the number of services providing for them.
He continued: ‘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.
‘But it’s not all bad news. The increase in reports of long-standing mental health conditions may also mean that children and young people are more willing to open up about their mental health, suggesting that we have made some progress in reducing the stigma associated with mental ill health.’
NHS England has vowed to expand mental health care services so that at least 70,000 more children and young people will receive evidence-based treatment every year by 2020/21. Overall, an increase in NHS-funded community services means that a minimum of 35% of those diagnosed with a mental health problem will be able to access treatment, according to NHS England.
‘Long way to go’
Responding to the report, Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network at NHS Confederation, said that there is ‘a long way to go before all children with mental health problems get the help they need’.
He added: ‘It’s worrying to hear so many more young people struggling, though we must take the positive that many people feel more able to talk freely about their mental health.
In July, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens recognised that more needs to be done about the unmet need in young people’s mental health services.