NHS data analysed by the BPS has revealed that the number of children and adolescents in contact with mental health services has risen by 55% over the last two years, with 357,802 (2021) compared to 230,739 seeking help at the end of November 2019.

The analysis also found the under-19s make up around one quarter (24%) of the total number of people in contact with mental health services, up from 17% at the end of 2019.

The BPS say that the soaring numbers emphasise the urgent need for Government investment in services and the psychological workforce, particularly in early intervention services. Currently, extreme staff shortages and years of funding cuts have taken a toll on the provision of children and young people's mental health services. This leaves many who need help waiting for months to receive the support they need, whereas early intervention could dramatically improve outcomes.

‘More funding and focus should be on preventative work’

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

"We know that our children and young people's mental health [have] 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.”