Mental Health in Young People

Mental Health in Young People – WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

Many aspects of today’s society can be bad news for the mental health of young people throughout the UK. As they grow and develop, children have to navigate a complex and ever-changing world,mental health in young people facing challenges and pressures in numerous aspects of their lives.

  • Family breakdown is widespread.
  • There is so much pressure to have access to money, the perfect body and lifestyle.
  • Materialist culture heavily influences young people
  • 24-hour social networking and what young people can access from a young age can have a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
  • Body image is a source of much distress for many young people.
  • Bullying on and offline is rife.
  • Increasing sexual pressures and early sexualisation throw young people into an adult world they don’t understand
  • Violence is rife in many communities and fear of crime a constant source of distress for thousands of young people.
  • Schools are getting more and more like exam factories; university entry has become more competitive and expensive.
  • 13% of 16-24-year-olds are not in employment, education or training (NEET).


Mental Health affects all aspects of a child’s development including their cognitive abilities, their social skills as well their emotional wellbeing. Building emotional resilience is key and we believe there are core attributes seen in mentally healthy children and young people:

  • The capacity to enter into and sustain mutually satisfying personal relationships
  • A continuing progression of psychological development
  • An ability to play and to learn appropriately for their age and intellectual level
  • A developing moral sense of right and wrong
  • The capacity to cope with a degree of psychological distress
  • A clear sense of identity and self-worth

With good mental health, children and young people do better in every way. They enjoy their childhoods, are able to deal with stress and difficult times, are able to learn better, do better at school, navigate the online world they grew up in so they benefit from it and enjoy friendships and new experiences.

Childhood and teenage years are when mental health is developed and patterns are set for the future. So a child with good mental health is much more likely to have good mental health as an adult and to be able to take on adult responsibilities and fulfil their potential.


  • Three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health disorder.
  • Roughly 725,000 people in the UK suffer from Eating Disorders, 86% of these will have shown symptoms before the age of 19.
  • One in 10 deliberately harm themselves regularly (and 15,000 of them are hospitalised each year because of this)
  • Nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression
  • Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14.
  • 45% of children in care have a mental health disorder – these are some of the most vulnerable people in our society
  • Nearly 300,000 young people in Britain have an anxiety disorder.
  • 95% of imprisoned young offenders have a mental health disorder. Many of them are struggling with more than one disorder.


Many thousands of children and young people are isolated, unhappy, have eating disorders and self-harm; some tragically take their own lives. Many are likely to become victims of crime, grow up in dysfunctional families, or left to cope with illness, drugs and/or alcohol issues – not necessarily their own. There is still a huge stigma around mental health which means children and young people are not getting the support they need. Mental health problems can lead to young people being disruptive, difficult, withdrawn and disturbed and it’s vital they are supported and not just ignored or told off.


Investing in services and support for young people at an early stage not only reduces misery and loneliness but saves millions in future costs to the NHS, education, criminal justice and social care costs. YoungMinds is the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people and empowering their parents and carers. We provide support for parents, training for professionals and a range of opportunities for young people to improve services and campaign for change. Young people are at the heart of everything we do.


  • One in Four (26%) young people in the UK experience suicidal thoughts
  • ChildLine (UK) has revealed that it held 34,517 counselling sessions in 2013/14 with children who talked about suicide – an 116 percent increase since 2010/11.
  • Among teenagers, rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70% in the past 25 years, particularly since the mid-1980’s.
  • The number of children and young people who have presented to A&E with a psychiatric condition has more than doubled since 2009. (8,358 in 10/11; 17,278 in 13/14)
  • 55% of children who have been bullied later developed depression as adults
  • 45% of children and young people under the age of 18 detained under s.136 were taken to police custody in 2012/13



Young Offenders

  • 10% of 13-18-year-olds in custody suffer from anxiety
  • 43% of young people in prison have ADHD


Looked After Children

  • 22.9% of looked after children aged 5-15 demonstrated emotional problems.
  • 18.9% of looked after children below the age of five (19.3% of boys and 17.4% of girls) showed signs of emotional or behavioural problems.
  • Looked After Children and care leavers are between four and five times more likely to attempt suicide in adulthood



  • 44% of young (16-24 year old) LGBT people have considered suicide
  • More than half (55 per cent) of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils have experienced direct bullying. Those who are bullied are at a higher risk of suicide, self-harm and depression.
  • Two in five (41 per cent) have attempted or thought about taking their own life directly because of bullying and the same number say that they deliberately self-harm directly because of bullying.



  • A recent study of young people of Asian origin in the UK found that the suicide rate of 16-24-year-old women was three times that of 16-24-year-old women of white British origin
  • Amongst 11–15-year-old boys, white, black and Indian adolescents showed very similar prevalence rates (around 5% in each group), whereas Pakistani and Bangladeshi adolescents had a prevalence rate of over 12% for emotional disorders



  • Rates of psychiatric disorder are up to four times greater in children with chronic physical illness than in children who are physically well.


Homeless Youth

  • Young people living in hostels/b&b accommodation are 8 times more likely to suffer from mental illness than the general population
  • Young people living on the streets are 11 times more likely to suffer from mental illness than the general population


Young People In Gangs

  • 86% will have conduct problems
  • 59% will have anxiety disorders
  • 34% will have attempted suicide
  • 25% will have psychosis
  • 20% will have depression
  • 30% of female gang members identify as self-harming or at risk of suicide.


Unemployed Young People

  • One in 5 long term unemployed young people feel they have nothing to live for
  • 1 in 4 long-term unemployed young people have been prescribed antidepressants
  • 1 in 4 long-term unemployed young people have self-harmed
  • “Poor mental health” is positively associated with the probability of being “not in education, employment or training” (NEET). It increases the probability of NEET by 2.7 and 3.3 percentage points for girls and boys respectively after detailed controls are added.



  •  The proportion of 15/16-year-olds reporting that they frequently feel anxious or depressed has doubled in the last 30 years, from 1 in 30 to 2 in 30 for boys and 1 in 10 to 2 in ten for girls.
  •  Nearly 300,000 young people in Britain have an anxiety disorder.
  •  Children with generalised anxiety disorder and those with depression had the most days away from school – a quarter had had more than 15 days absence in the previous term.

Depression is a very misunderstood term. Way too many people are using the word as an adjective rather than a name of a very serious mental disease. Another problem with depression is recognising the symptoms, whether it is yourself or a family member/friend. Symptoms are not always black and white and some people suffer a lot more symptoms than others – that is not an indication as to how ‘severe’ the depression is.

Symptoms of Depression

Not everyone who is depressed or manic experiences every symptom. Some people experience a few symptoms, some many. The severity of symptoms varies among individuals and also varies over time.

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or empty mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Insomnia, early morning awakening or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain


  •  A survey of 10,438 children between the ages of 5 and 15 years found that 3.62% of boys and 0.85% of girls had ADHD.
  • Two-thirds of children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder have comorbid learning disorders or other mental health or neurodevelopmental conditions



  • 25% of autistic children were reported to have tried to harm or kill themselves


  • The numbers of young people calling Childline for help about Eating Disorders has increased by 110% since 2011
  • The number of hospital admissions across the UK for teenagers with eating disorders has nearly doubled in the last three years (959 13 to 19-year-olds in 2010/11 to 1,815 in 2013/14)


  • About 25% of young people self-harm on one occasion, most commonly by cutting. 87% of young people who self-harm do not seek treatment from an acute hospital.
  • Over half (59%) of young people interviewed said they had researched suicide online.
  • A&E presentations of self-harm by those aged 17 and under have risen by 30% since 2003-04
  • Between 2001 and 2011 inpatient admissions for young people who self-harm increased by 68%. Among females under 25, there was a 77% increase in ten years (2001-2011)


  • 1 in 10 suicides in the UK are by those aged 15-24
  • Up to 160 young people under the age of 20 die by suicide in England each year, 60-70 of whom are under 18. Only 14% of suicides aged under 20 have been in contact with specialist mental health services

Look at these statistics and know that you’re not alone, nobody will judge you. It’s time to remove the stigma around mental health.

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