Children’s mental health is in sharp decline. The number of children likely to have a mental health problem has risen by 50% in the last three years from one in nine to one in six. That’s five children in every classroom.
Not surprisingly, the pandemic has taken its toll on young people. And an estimated quarter of a million children have struggled with the loss of their usual support mechanisms. Not being able to see friends and family caused the most distress.
But even before the pandemic, there has been a worrying downward trend in children’s happiness. The latest Good Childhood Report by the Children’s Society reported that an estimated 306,000 10-15 year olds in the UK are unhappy. That’s over 76% more than ten years ago. School life and worrying about appearance caused the most unhappiness.
The Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) follows the health and wellbeing of people born around the turn of the century. The latest sweep of the MCS found that one in four 17 year olds had self-harmed in the last year and 7% had attempted suicide. With numbers for young people attracted to the same or both genders much higher at 51% for self-harm and 19% for attempted suicide.
How can we support children’s mental health?
Half of all mental health problems manifest by the age of 14 and three quarters by age 18. Early support is vital, but 75% of the young people who need help don’t get it. Waiting lists for NHS treatments are long and 34% of those referred are not accepted for treatment as their condition is not considered severe enough. But children should not have to wait until they are at crisis point to receive help.
Things you can do:
- If you are a parent or carer worried about a child, talk to them, listen to them and let them know you can work through any issues together. If they don’t want to talk, try text or email.
- Speak to your GP for advice.
- Write to your MP and support the Young Minds Fund the Hubs campaign to increase funding for early mental health and wellbeing hubs for young people.
- Attend a Youth Mental Health First Aid course and learn more about supporting children’s mental health.
- Supporting someone struggling with mental health is hard, so make sure you look after yourself. Take some time every day to do something just for you.