Study finds young people are increasingly likely to report mental health concerns

RCN says figures underline the importance of school nurses in early intervention

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Children and young people in England are six times more likely to report having a mental health condition than they were two decades ago, a study has revealed.

Academics from University College London, Imperial College London, the University of Exeter and the Nuffield Trust analysed data from 140,830 participants in 36 national surveys in England, Scotland and Wales.

More likely to report

They found that 4.8% of children and young people aged up to 24 in England reported a mental health condition in 2014, compared with 0.8% in 1995.

The data also show that 16-24 year olds in England were almost ten times more likely to report a mental health condition in 2014 than they were in 1995, with the proportion rising from 0.6% to 5.9%.

Figures for Scotland and Wales only became available in 2008, at which point 3.7% of those aged up to 24 in Scotland said they had a mental health condition, along with 3% in England, while 2.9% in Wales were receiving treatment, the investigation found. By 2014 the figures for Scotland and Wales were 6.5% and 4.1% respectively.

School nurse numbers key

The RCN says the study underlines the importance of school nurses in early intervention.

RCN professional lead for children and young people Fiona Smith says: 'The number of school nurses in England has plummeted by 22% since 2009. Children and young people’s mental health is one of their highest priorities but school nurses cannot provide mental health support and intervene before problems escalate without investment in boots on the ground.'

Study co-author and Nuffield Trust visiting research analyst Dougal Hargreaves says there is already a crisis in availability of child and adolescent mental health services and this study shows demand is unlikely to fall.

But he says it is ‘not all bad news’ because an increase in reporting may mean children and young people are more open to talking about conditions.

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