HomeMENTAL HEALTHChildren's mental health - calls for early intervention legislation

Children’s mental health – calls for early intervention legislation

Legislative change is urgently demanded by MQ as children in England are facing a mental health crisis.

Young people in England are bearing the burden of deepening mental health problems as the number of people needing treatment increased by 39% in just one year, according to the latest figures.

These numbers include children who are thinking of suicide, harming themselves, suffering from severe depression or anxiety, and suffering from eating disorders. Hospitalizations for eating disorders are also on the rise, with an 82% increase from 2019 to 2022.

The NSPCC described the figures as “alarming”.

According to experts, the reasons for the dramatic increase in both the severity and prevalence of poor mental health for children in England include austerity, social inequality, online harm and the pandemic. During the first year of the pandemic, 2020-21, a total of 839,570 under-18s were being referred for NHS mental health treatment. The shocking thing is that in 2021-22 more than 11 lakh children were referred.

“Early intervention services are recommended in the NHS because {evidence shows} these services improve outcomes for patients and save money. People in early intervention services also spend less time in hospital, which is good news for them is, and saves the NHS money.”

Professor Belinda Lennox, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust

While some may consider it unusual for people under the age of 18 to struggle with mental illness, it is becoming increasingly clear that this is the age when mental illness is most likely to begin. And during these formative years, when our brains are developing, if problems are not addressed, they can become embedded in our neurology, identity, and become very hard to break free of in later life. Huh.

MQ focuses on statistics:

  • 75% of MH problems begin before adulthood and 50% of lifelong MH problems begin before age 14.
  • 1 in 6 children has a diagnosable MH disorder and 1 in 4 17-19 year olds. He is 5 in every class.
  • Mental ill-health represents up to 23% of the total burden of ill-health in the UK – the single largest cause of disability.
  • About 43% of people receiving long-term health benefits have a mental or behavioral condition.
  • However, spending by local authorities on early intervention services for children and young people was cut by 50% between 2010/11 and 2020/21.

At MQ we have long recognized access to treatment as one of the areas most in need of reform and change needed in young people’s mental health care. That’s why we are supporting research projects into whether CAMHS referrals can be improved.

Early intervention can come in many forms, including home visiting programs, school-based education, and counseling plans. Early intervention is about connection, education, information and prevention.

Early intervention can reduce risk factors and increase protective factors for young people, giving them the best possible chance of lifelong recovery from mental illness. Without early intervention, children run the risk of developing a lifetime of mental health conditions, which hinders the nation’s healthcare, workforce as well as individuals from living full, productive, happy and healthy lives.

Despite all this, there is no current law that makes early intervention in children’s mental health a statutory requirement. MQ passionately calls for a systemic overhaul to provide for this early intervention law change in the new mental health bill.

You can now donate to MQ here.

You can speak to Samaritans anytime by calling 116-123.

You can download the Hub of Hope app to find mental health support in your area anytime.

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