RCPsych responds to NHS England report on children and young people's mental health

Statement / comment
22 November 2023

NHS England has published a new report which shows one in five children and young people between the ages of eight and 25 have a probable mental disorder.

The Mental Health of Children and Young People in England 2023 report also highlights that there has been a significant increase in the number of children and young people suffering from eating disorders.

Dr Elaine Lockhart, Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Child and Adolescent Faculty, said:

“This report reflects what psychiatrists across the country have been seeing on the ground for several years now. An increasing number of children and young people are suffering with mental illness, and they urgently need more support if we are to put an end to this crisis.

“These developmental years are extremely important and can help our young people reach their potential and go on to live fulfilling and productive lives. It is vital that they are supported and enabled to make the most of the opportunities that are available to them.

“Unfortunately, this is currently not the case for so many of our children and young people, including those who are struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. It is deeply concerning to see the proportion of children and young identified as having an eating disorder – a mental illness that can have a significant impact on a person’s physical health.

“We already know that children from poorer households are more likely to have serious mental health difficulties. It is clear more needs to be done to address inequalities and provide targeted care to those who need it most.

“The most effective way to support young people with mental illness is to prevent them from developing one in the first place. Early intervention often stops people from suffering with more serious symptoms which require long-term care.

“Specialist mental health services will only be able to do this if the Government consistently invests in recruiting, retaining and training the medical and multi-disciplinary workforce, ensuring equitable investment in shortage specialties like psychiatry. Services and agencies must work together to rapidly improve the support that is available to vulnerable children and their families within education, social services and the third sector.

“It is also important to recognise the impact that the internet and social media can have on young people’s mental health. The recent passing of the Online Safety Bill was a crucial first step in creating a safer digital world and the Government must ensure that plans to enforce these new laws are properly resourced.”

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