Greater awareness about young people’s mental health, but support still too hard to find

Greater awareness about young people’s mental health, but support still too hard to find

Our new report warns that while there is growing awareness about children and young people’s mental health, it is still far too difficult for young people with mental health problems to get the help they need.

The #FightingFor report, which is being published to mark the charity’s 25th anniversary, shows that while most people believe that there is less stigma about mental health than there used to be, young people and parents face a huge range of barriers to finding the right support.

A YouGov survey of 2,100 adults [1] showed that:

  • 88% agree that people are more likely to talk about mental health than they used to be
  • 84% agree that media coverage about mental health has increased in the last two years.
  • 94% agree that mental health is just as important as physical health
  • 81% would seek help if they were feeling stressed, anxious or low and were struggling to cope. 

But, despite this change in attitudes, two surveys conducted by YoungMinds paint a stark picture of the challenges young people face in finding appropriate support. The surveys – of more than 2,700 young people who have looked for support for their mental health and more than 1,600 parents whose children have looked for support [2] – show that:

  • Only 9% of young people and 6% of parents reported that they had found it easy to get the support they needed. 66% of young people and 84% of parents reported they had found it difficult.
  • Only 6% of young people and 3% of parents agreed that there is enough support for children and young people with mental health problems. 81% of young people and 94% of parents disagreed.


Young people and parents reported barriers at every stage in their search for help. When asked what barriers they had faced, if any, to getting support for their mental health, 51% of young people said that they hadn’t understood what they were going through, while 23% of parents said that their child hadn’t told them what they were going through. 42% of parents reported problems getting help from school or college, while 29% reported having problems getting help from their GP.

The surveys also showed that many young people who had received treatment from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) had faced delays both before and after their initial assessment. 44% of young people who had accessed CAMHS said that they found it hard to get an initial referral, 60% said that there was a long wait between their referral and their assessment and 32% said that there was a long wait between assessment and treatment. [3].

Parents generally welcomed the government’s recent proposal to introduce mental health support teams into schools, but believed that the current proposals – to introduce a support team into a quarter of schools by 2022/23 – didn’t go far enough. 83% of parents agreed that a mental health team would have been helpful for their child, but 79% were dissatisfied at the rate at which these support teams are being introduced.

Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said: “These results reflect what we hear every day from young people and parents – that, despite the great progress being made by campaigns like Heads Together to get people talking about mental health, as well as extra government investment, there can still be unacceptable barriers to getting help.

“Every day we get calls to our Parents Helpline from parents whose children can’t get help at school, who’ve been waiting months for an assessment, or who have been told that they don’t meet the threshold for treatment. We hear from young people who have started to self-harm or become suicidal while waiting for support.

“All the evidence shows that getting the right help quickly can prevent problems from escalating, so it’s not good enough that around half of those young people who reach out for help are turned away.

“We’ve been fighting for young people’s mental health for 25 years. Getting the nation talking about mental health is a crucial part of that fight, but it needs to be matched by a mental health system that is equipped to handle the current crisis.”

In October 2016 Jeremy Hunt described CAMHS as “possibly the single biggest area of weakness in NHS provision” [4], while NHS figures suggest that only around half of young people who are referred to CAMHS end up getting treatment [5]. The government’s recent Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health proposed waiting time targets for CAMHS, new mental health support teams that would work in schools and designated mental health leads in schools [6].

For more information about our 25th anniversary, go to www.youngminds.org.uk/25

Notes to Editors

[1] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2100 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 29th - 30th January 2018.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

[2] The figures below are taken from two YoungMinds surveys hosted on surveygizmo.eu in January and February 2018. There were 2,702 complete responses from children and young people up to the age of 25 who had looked for support for their mental health in the UK. 5% were 13 or under, 28% were 14-15, 40% were 16-17, 17% were 18-21, 10% were 22-25.

There were 1,634 complete responses from parents of children and young people up to the age of 25 who had looked for support for their mental health in the UK. 39% had children who were 13 or under, 21% had children aged 14-15, 18% had children who were 16-17, 17% were 18-21, 4% were 22-25. Both surveys were promoted on social media.

[3] The figures are filtered by young people and parents who had received support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). This represents 1,667 respondents to the young people’s survey who reported having received support from CAMHS, and 1,306 respondents to the Parents Survey, who reported that their child had received support from CAMHS.

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/oct/20/jeremy-hunt-promises-better-mental-health-services-children-adolescents

[5] “The data suggests that approximately half of referrals to CAMHS do not result in a service being offered, following either a paper triage or face to face assessment." (CAMHS Benchmarking 2016: https://www.nhsbenchmarking.nhs.uk/news/camhs-benchmarking-2016-findings-published)

[6] For more information about the government’s Green Paper, Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision, see https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/transforming-children-and-young-peoples-mental-health-provision-a-green-paper. For a response from YoungMinds, see https://youngminds.org.uk/media/2203/youngminds-consultation-response-to-childrens-mental-health-green-paper.pdf  

Visit our media centre
Back To Top