What's the problem?

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 fulfill their potential.

Sadly, the society we live in can be bad news for the mental health of our children and young people in the UK.

  • Family breakdown is widespread. 
  • There is so much pressure to have access to money, the perfect body and lifestyle. 
  • Consumerism controls young people and 24 hour social networking and what young people can access from a young age never lets up. 
  • Body image is a source of much distress for many young people
  • Bullying on and offline is rife
  • 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 ever more competitive and expensive and 1 in 5 16-24 year olds are unemployed.

850,000 children have mental health problems

A girl with her head in her hands.

  • Three children in every classroom has a diagnosable mental health disorder (and that’s just the ones that have been diagnosed)
  • One in five young adults show signs of an eating disorder
  • One in 12 deliberately harm themselves (and 25,000 of them are hospitalised each year because of this)
  • Nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression

Find out more: Mental health statistics

Many thousands of children and young people are isolated, unhappy, have eating disorders and self harm; some tragically  commit suicide. 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 Mental health problems can lead to young people being  disruptive, difficult, withdrawn and disturbed and its vital they are supported and not just ignored or told off.  

What is Mental Health?

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

Early intervention is vital

Boy looks out of a rainy window.

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 criminal justice system, NHS, education and social care costs.

  • More than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood. Fewer than half of them were treated appropriately at the time
  • 45% of children in care have a mental health disorder - these are some of the most vulnerable people in our society
  • 95% of imprisoned young offenders have a mental health disorder. Many of them are struggling with more than one disorder.

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.