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Children wait 10 years for mental health support

Report highlights gap between need and care

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 08 June 2016

Children and young people with mental health difficulties go an average of ten years between first becoming unwell and first getting any help.

This is the finding of the evidence review Missed Opportunities, published today by the Centre for Mental Health, which finds that mental health problems are very common among young people, but awareness is poor and most attempts by parents to get help for their children are unsuccessful.

Based on recent research, the document pieces together the evidence about children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing in the UK. It breaks down findings into four age groups: pregnancy to age 4; children aged 5-10, 11-15-year-olds, and young adults aged 16-25.

For all age groups, the report notes a “persistent gap” between children’s needs and their access to help and support, especially early on when difficulties with mental health first emerge. 

The review finds that some groups of children and young people face especially high risks for poor mental health. They include children who have been subjected to neglect and abuse, children who are bullied or who bully, and children whose parents have mental health problems. Groups with higher rates of poor mental health also include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people, those in the youth justice system and those who have been looked after by local authorities.

Childhood mental health problems can cast a long shadow, well into adult life, states the report, but most common childhood mental health problems can be treated effectively, if early and effective help is provided.

The report concludes: “The longer a child is left without help for a mental health problem, and the more often it recurs, the more it is likely to cast a shadow over their entire life. Early high-quality help, offered quickly and combined with ongoing support to prevent problems coming back, is essential.”

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