Children and young people wait an average of ten years before getting help for mental health problems, a charity has warned.
The Centre for Mental Health said there was evidence of ‘the very real difference that can be made to their life chances by intervening at the very first sign of symptoms’.
However, despite this it found that ‘research suggests a ten-year average delay between the time that young people first experience symptoms and receive help’.
The report said: ‘For all age groups, a dominant issue has been the persistent gap between children’s needs and their access to help and support, especially early on when difficulties with mental health first emerge.
‘Getting help at the first sign of symptoms is critical, and yet at every age, only a minority of those with diagnosable mental health problems receive help to address them.’
The Centre for Mental Health recommends: home visiting programmes for high-risk families (parents who misuse substances or who are living in prolonged poverty, for example); for schools to teach social and emotional learning; schools promoting mental health; and addressing the problem of teenagers falling into the crack between child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and adult services.
The report concluded: ‘The implications of the evidence we have brought together are far-reaching. They point to the need for whole system ownership of and investment in children and families’ mental health, from the first spark of life through to early adulthood.’
Lorraine Khan, associate director for children and young people at Centre for Mental Health, said: ‘Waiting for a child’s mental health to deteriorate until it hits crisis point causes untold distress and damage to their lives and carries a heavy social and economic cost. We have to take action now to offer high quality help quickly to children and young people everywhere.’
Shadow minister for mental health Luciana Berger MP said: ‘The Tory Government has repeatedly said that child and adolescent mental health is their priority, but this report shows the gulf between what Tory Ministers promise and what is actually happening across the country.
‘Warm words are not enough for the young people who are suffering on their watch – particularly the most vulnerable groups. We need urgent action now.’
A Pulse investigation in 2014 found that GPs were facing increasing pressures on child mental health referrals as CCGs were making cuts, and last year official data showed NHS England had cut CAMHS funding by £50m.