milibandLabour leader Ed Miliband has helped to launch a new online counselling support service for young people after new mental health charity MindFull revealed that a third of children have thought about or attempted suicide before they were 16.

MindFull’s report, ‘Alone with my thoughts’, was launched today [5 July] at an event at BAFTA featuring talks from Ed Miliband MP and chartered clinical psychologist Professor Tanya Byron.

After highlighting that 1 in 5 children also have symptoms of depression, Professor Byron, patron of The BB Group and Chartered Clinical Psychologist said: "Just as we look after our children’s physical health, it’s vital that we also offer support for their mental wellbeing.

"Children and young people are clearly not getting the help they need, that’s why this new online support from MindFull is so important. Teenagers naturally look to the internet as a source of information and advice, so that’s where we need to be in order to help the hundreds of thousands of young people who are currently getting no support."

Let down by mental health support
The new charity will give 11 to 17-year-olds immediate access to free online professional counselling support and advice.

MindFull's report includes a survey by YouGov of more than 2,000 children and young people that reveals that nearly a third (29%) have self-harmed because they feel ‘down’ and over half those who had shown signs of depression felt let down by their experiences of mental health support.

On average, children who showed symptoms of depression and talked to more than one person ended up speaking to people 22 times before they got help. Almost half (47%) of young people with depression never got the help they wanted.

Early intervention is key
Emma-Jane Cross, CEO of MindFull, added: “Too many children who try to speak out about the way they’re feeling are being let down or simply ignored. It’s unacceptable that so many are having to resort to harming themselves on purpose in order to cope, or worse still are thinking about ending their own lives.

"Early intervention is proven to help prevent adult mental health problems, so swift action must be taken now if we are to avoid a legacy of serious long-term mental illness."

The charity, launched by the team behind the BeatBullying charity, will give children and teenagers the support of mental health professionals and enable them to mentor one another in a safe space as well as educating young people about how to cope with mental health issues.

Other key findings from the survey included:
• 39% of children said they had found it hard to leave the house because they felt down
• 18% of young people said they have felt constantly on edge in the past two weeks
• 38% of those who had showed signs of depression as children said they had run away from home
• Of those that spoke to someone about their problem most confided in a friend (57%), followed by parents (54%) and a face-to-face counsellor (32%)
• 68% think that putting mental health services online would be an effective way to tackle mental health issues among young people.

Children grow up in a 'toxic climate'
In addition to launching the helpline, MindFull is calling for mental health to be embedded as a core theme in the national curriculum; a move that has been welcomed by fellow charity YoungMinds’ director of campaigns and policy, Lucie Russell.

"We very much welcome Mindfull’s new online service for young people which will get support to young people where they are, when they need it and we hope Mindfull will work with us to get the vital importance of children and young people’s metal health up the political agenda both locally and nationally,” she said.

"Children and young people are growing up in a toxic climate, that they exist in a 24/7 online world where they never switch off, where cyberbullying, consumerism and pornography, sexting and the pressure to have the perfect body bombard them daily, where any exam grade below a C means failure and employment prospects are bleak.

"We know from our extensive work with young people that the support they so desperately need when they aren’t coping is grossly lacking but we also know from services that they under huge funding pressures and are overwhelmed with demand."