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Mental health waiting times harming young people

Thousands of young people are being left waiting so long for mental health support or treatment that they have attempted to take their own lives, leading mental health charity YoungMinds reveals today.

Almost 14,000 young people aged under 25 completed a survey the charity used for a government consultation on a ten year strategy for mental health.1 The future of this consultation now lies in doubt, as the candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party are yet to commit to the plan.

More than one in four young people (26 per cent) said they had tried to take their own life as a result of having to wait for mental health support. More than four in ten (44 per cent) waited more than a month for mental health support after seeking it and almost one in 10 (9 per cent) young people were turned away.

More than half of young people (58%) said their mental health got worse while they were waiting for support.

The figures come as latest NHS data shows 66,389 young people aged 19 and under were referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in April, a 109% rise compared to the same month pre-pandemic.The research also reveals that:

  • more than a third of young people (37%) said they did not feel supported by their GP when they tried to access mental health support or advice
  • more than two thirds of young people (71%) said they experienced problems with their relationships with family and friends as a result of having to wait for mental health support

YoungMinds today launches its End The Wait campaign, calling on the Government to end the crisis in young people’s mental health.

Responding to the figures, Emma Thomas, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said: “These numbers paint a shocking picture of the situation young people in this country face when it comes to their mental health. We have also seen this reflected in calls to our Parents Helpline, with an increasing number of people saying their child has attempted to take their own life and still isn’t receiving the right care.

For years, politicians have promised that they will get a grip of the situation, including a recent commitment to a ten year plan. But the reality is that with every month of inaction, things are getting rapidly worse for young people.

The heart-breaking reality is that referrals to the NHS are continuing to reach record highs but uncertainty in Government means that time and resources are being diverted away from a rapidly escalating mental health crisis for young people. This cannot continue. We will wait no longer.

The Government’s ten year Mental Health Plan cannot fall hostage to current political turmoil – the fight for young people’s mental health doesn’t wait. We are ready to work with our new political leaders to make sure this happens.”

Whatever you're going through, you can contact the Samaritans for support. Call 116123 or email jo@samaritans.org

The first time I tried to take my own life, I was 12. By the time I got any support from CAMHS, I had attempted suicide twice more. I cannot stress enough how the wait for mental health support ruined my life. I had been with CAMHS since 8 years old I was and it’s just an endless cycle of waiting for nothing. There have been times where I have literally been forgotten about because of the poor system - it feels hopeless; as if no-one is doing anything to make it better.

It's a common pattern that when you reach out, you will be given helpline numbers to call. They're an amazing resource - but if you’re struggling with your mental health it isn't going to be resolved in a 30 minute conversation with a stranger. You need to genuinely feel like there is help for you, a solid, regular support network.

The lack of support I'd gotten as a child and as a teenager makes me reluctant to reach out for support today, even when I need it. It feels like there's no point trying. I've been let down time and time again.

I have attempted suicide again since I was 12 years old, I’ve seen how much worse the access to support has gotten in that time. More needs to be done to ensure other young people don’t fall through the cracks in the system. There needs to be a genuine attempt to improve mental health, through therapy and early support networks. It's just not enough.
YoungMinds Activist Sid, aged 18 from Hampshire

Find out more about our campaign.

End The Wait

For further information and for interview requests please contact press@youngminds.org.uk or call 0203 861 2072.

See Samaritans' guidance on reporting on suicide in the media.

[1] 13,887 young people aged under 25 completed YoungMinds’ survey between 13 June 2022 and 07 July 2022. This sample was self-selecting and is not nationally representative. The responses were shared anonymously with the Government as part of its call for evidence for the ten-year Mental Health Plan.

[2] NHS Digital (2019-22) ‘Mental Health Services Monthly Statistics 2019-22.’ Published July 2022. This measure was first reported on and measured comparably in January 2016. 31, 720 under 18s were referred to CAMHS in April 2019.

About YoungMinds

YoungMinds is the UK’s leading charity fighting for young people’s mental health.

Follow us on Twitter @YoungMindsUK and Facebook.

For free advice and support for parents, call our helpline on 0808 802 5544.

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