RCPCH responds to latest NHS Digital mental health stats

Statistics released today by NHS Digital reveal that one in eight children between the ages of five and 19, surveyed in England in 2017, had a mental health disorder. Professor Russell Viner, President of the RCPCH responds.

Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2017, published today by NHS Digital, collected information from 9,117 children and young people and combines information - depending on their age - from children and young people or their parents and teachers.

Mental disorders were grouped into four broad categories: emotional, behavioural, hyperactivity and other less common disorders. The report also looked at other aspects of the lives of the children and young people surveyed, including for the first time social media, bullying and cyberbullying.

In response to the latest mental health statistics, Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said:

The fact that one in eight children between the ages of five and 19 have a mental health problem is alarming but worse still, there is likely to be many more.

We have long known of the mental health crisis that engulfs our country but the resources are simply not available to help these vulnerable young people. As today’s data also showed, the number of 5 to 15 year olds with a mental health problem is increasing, but as our report published just last month warned, without major investment in this area, the number of England’s children and young people who are likely to battle a mental health issue in 2030 will rise to 60% - without action, children living with the conditions will face a miserable existence without timely access to support.

The Government has already provided additional mental health support for the education sector but we know this alone is not enough. Children need to be able to access services regardless of the time and place they present with a problem. And with around 6% of preschool children identified as having at least one mental disorder, early intervention will be key to improve life chances.

We see the Government’s Long-Term Plan as an excellent opportunity to address the children and young people’s mental health crisis and we strongly recommend it includes mental health training for all professionals, the adoption of ‘local offers’ and crucially, the integration of child health with primary care and other agencies into the mental health system.  Additionally, the collection and publication of statistics like today’s will be extremely important if we are to monitor the number of children in need of mental health support and act accordingly. We would like to see the Government provide a firm commitment to regularity of these surveys – they will be vital if every child in need of life-changing healthcare has access to it.