Youth Mental Health Crisis

Youth Mental Health Crisis

The impact of COVID-19 and further cuts to Government funding continues to affect all of our public services.  The repercussions of this are felt by all.  However, it is the impact on children and young people; namely, the impact on youth mental health (YMH) services, that continues to operate in crisis.  The effects of this on our NHS have been profound with wait times for all services at a record high and a sharp increase between referrals, assessment, and treatment.

The numbers

Not helped by the lack of readily available support in YMH, 7 in 10 young people experience feelings of anxiety (71%) and low mood (76%). Over the past year, these children and young people have experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation. Child referrals to CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service) are subject to a postcode lottery when it comes to first appointment wait times, ranging from 7 weeks (Sussex) to 164 weeks (Coventry and Warwick)[1] and up to 217 weeks for treatment (Pennine Care).  During this period of limbo, children’s mental health declines further. A survey by Young Minds found that of 13,887 young people waiting for treatment, more than 1 in 4 had tried to take their own life because they’d had to wait to receive mental health help.


Due to the delay in mental health support, young people are reportedly self-harming more than ever.  The Children’s Society has reported that 3% of young people aged 11-16 have self-harmed with 22% of all girls aged 14 now self-harming. However, this is not a gender-specific problem as more young males are also harming themselves due to poor mental health. The reasons for this are varied and are also linked to an overstretched and undertrained educational sector where children with autism and/or ADHD are not diagnosed or supported adequately.  Historically, if a child self-harmed, they would be referred to CAMHS by their GP, and where suicide was deemed a risk, an inpatient specialist mental health bed would be made available quickly to assess the health of the child.  Sadly, this is now not the case.  A child must have self-harmed several times, with increasing severity, before a hospital bed is made available. A new report has exposed the current crisis in child mental health services and has revealed how a new higher threshold is used to award specialist mental health beds to children.

Crisis point

The lack of mental health beds for children can also be attributed to funding as well as soaring demand.  A report by Look Ahead highlights how private operators now provide most of the mental health inpatient care for children and young people who are deemed unwell enough to need a bed, but these cost up to £4,200 a week, far more than on the NHS.  However, an NHS spokesperson has denied this and said “over 701,000 children and young people were supported by NHS mental health services in the year up to October 2022”.  If this is correct, it seems incongruous that so many children and young people are not offered specialist mental health beds when they need them the most.  In a desperate bid to receive medical help, under-18s are seeking help at A&E for serious mental health problems because mental health crisis services are inadequate, even though emergency departments are not set up to deal with that.  The mental health charity, Young Minds have criticised the current crisis “It is shameful that children and young people are reaching crisis point before they get any support for their mental health.”  For a young person experiencing emotional distress, A&E departments are not an appropriate place to wait for help.  Once a child is seen by medical staff in A&E, they could be placed on an unsuitable children’s ward for days or even weeks.  Our youth mental health crisis is a concern for all parents and caregivers.  If you have been affected by this blog, please see blow.

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