• One in eight children had a mental illness in 2017
  • First time national assessment published since 2004
  • Data comes amid calls to improve mental health services for children and young people

Mental illness among children and young people has become significantly more widespread, new data from NHS Digital has revealed.

A national assessment of mental health in children and young people, published for the first time since 2004, revealed 12.8 per cent of this group reported having at least one mental illness in 2017.

For five to 15 year olds, the prevalence of mental health illness increased from 9.7 per cent in 1999 to 11.2 per cent in 2017. Emotional disorders, such as separation anxiety disorder, social phobia, and obsessive compulsive disorder, appeared to drive much of the increase among this cohort. 

The data comes amid widespread calls to improve mental health services for children and young people. The current government has also listed mental health services as one of its priorities.

In response to the findings, Nick Waggett, chief executive of the Association of Child Psychotherapists, said: “The rising demands on child and adolescent mental health services mean that these figures come as no surprise. The new data shows how urgent it is that we renew our mental health services for children and young people and provide accessible and also adequate treatment in a timely way.

“We know from separate data sources that on average 150 referrals a day are turned away from NHS children’s mental health services. More than 100,000 children referred to local specialist NHS mental health services have been rejected for treatment in the last two years. Many services have raised thresholds and are facing reduced resources, capacities and competencies in CAMHS teams.”

The data set was published this morning. HSJ is currently analysing it more fully.