10 Worrying Facts about Mental Health in Children

girls sits on floor looking anxious with her knees up to her chest and partially hiding her face in her jumper - mental health in children

Children’s Mental Health Week starts tomorrow and we know that COVID, lockdown and the cost of living crisis is having an adverse effect on our children’s mental health. It could be decades before we see the true effect these last few years will have had on mental health in children. However the statistics we are seeing now, already give us an indication of the problem we are facing. There is an average 10-year delay between young people displaying first symptoms and getting help.

Children’s and young people’s mental health is very much in the spotlight at the moment. It’s important we have all the facts if we are to understand the importance of better mental health for all children, wherever they live, whatever their background or class.

Mental Health in Children – The Facts

  1. One in six school-aged children has a mental health problem. This is an alarming rise from one in ten in 2004 and one in nine in 2017 (NHS Digital 2022)
  2. 1 in 8 (12.6%) 11 to 16-year-old social media users reported that they had been bullied online. Worryingly, this rose to more than 1 in 4 (29.4%) among those with a probable mental disorder (NHS Digital 2022)
  3. In 2019/20, 538,564 children were referred to children’s mental health services, an increase of 35% on 2018/19, and nearly 60% on 2017/18. However, the numbers getting treatment is up only 4% on the previous year (Children’s Commissioner Annual Report)
  4. Children and young people with a learning disability are over 4 times more likely than average to have a mental health problem (learningdisabilities.org.uk)
  5. Suicide is the largest cause of mortality for young people under 35. Suicide rates for ages 0-24 are increasing, and are at their highest since 2001 (Office for National Statistics 2021)
  6. Almost half (45%) of children in care have a diagnosable mental health disorder. With looked-after children four times more likely than their peers to have a mental health condition (nspcc.org.uk)
  7. Children and young people are more likely to have poor mental health if they experience some form of adversity, such as living in poverty, parental separation or financial crisis, where there is a problem with the way their family functions or whose parents already have poor mental health (local.gov.uk)
  8. 1 in 8 LGBTIQ+ people aged 18 to 24 has attempted to end their life. And almost half of trans people had thought about taking their life (mentalhealth.org.uk)
  9. 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age (mentalhealth.org.uk)
  10. In the last three years, the likelihood of young people having a mental health problem has increased by 50%. Now, 5 children in a classroom of 30 are likely to have a mental health problem (childrenssociety.org.uk)

Demand has gone up, whilst funding has stagnated. Our health services are literally unable to support all the children and young people in need.

Mental Health Act 2022

In June 2022 the government published the draft Mental Health Bill.

The Bill is going through parliament currently, having completed the Joint Committee Inquiry stage. The Joint Committee has published its report, recommending that the Bill must be revisited to address the rising numbers of individuals detained under current legislation, as well as deal with unacceptable failures on racial inequalities.

Moving Forward

Mental health in children and young people is not constant or linear. Just like so many things, it is on a spectrum, and children can be anywhere between healthy and unwell. Many children and young people will move around the spectrum at different times, and with differing struggles.

So let’s do what we can to educate ourselves, and ensure that we know what to look out for with our kids. Talk to them, answer any questions they might have, and spend time with them when you can.

Fay x


NHS Digital 2022 – Mental Health of Children and Young People in England 2022 – wave 3 follow up to the 2017 survey – NDRS (digital.nhs.uk)

Children’s Commissioner Annual Report – The state of children’s mental health services 2019/20 | Children’s Commissioner for England (childrenscommissioner.gov.uk)

learningdisabilities.org.uk – Learning disability statistics: mental health problems | Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities

Office for National Statistics 2021 – Suicides in England and Wales – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

nspcc.org.uk – Statistics about looked after children | NSPCC Learning

local.gov.uk – Children and young people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health – facts and figures | Local Government Association

mentalhealth.org.uk – Refugees and asylum seekers. The statistics | Mental Health Foundation

childrenssociety.org.uk – Children’s Health Statistics | The Children’s Society (childrenssociety.org.uk)

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