Enough spent on youth mental health?

Government announces £35m research into teenage mental health

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Is enough money spent on mental health for young people?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

Around one in eight children or young people experience at least one mental health problem - but is there enough support for them?

The government is funding new research into mental health in adolescence, hoping to find new ways to intervene sooner.

Andrea Leadsom says it will help us better understand "how we can better support, detect and treat them".

However, academics from the University of Oxford argue that mental health services for children and young people is not being funded enough.

The Claim

The government has announced a £35 million programme for new research into teenage mental health issues.

The funding is hoping to "unlock quicker diagnosis and better support from health facilities and schools".

In a press release, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy explains: "Academics will look at external tensions and genetics to ensure mental health problems are being treated as effectively as possible at this crucial age, while the brain is still developing."

They add that adolescence is often a poorly understood period in our lives - and early intervention could help young people get quicker and better support and treatments.

Leadsom said: "Our teenage years can be the most fantastic of our life. But there are those for whom the teenage years are the most difficult.

"We know that in the UK, three quarters of those that will experience mental health problems will do so before they turn 24."

The business secretary added: "The £35 million government-backed research programme we are announcing today will look to better understand why so many teenagers face mental health problems, and how we can better support, detect and treat them."

The Counterclaim

However, academics from the University of Oxford argue that the UK doesn’t spend enough on the mental health of young people.

In an article for The Conversation, Apostolos Tsiachristas and Stephen Rocks, researchers in health economics, explain that two in three young people in England with a mental health problem do not receive support from specialist services.

There are also long waits for child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) - which accounts for just seven per cent of the NHS mental health budget. CAMHS accounts for less than one per cent of all NHS spending.

While admitting that things are changing, the NHS target of meeting the needs of 35 per cent of children and young people with mental health conditions is "alarmingly low and many young people are still waiting too long for help".

The academics write: "Many services previously available to young people, such as children’s centres, have been cut following substantial reductions in local government budgets.

"This is expected to result in more young people needing support from specialist services."

Tsiachristas and Rocks conclude: "The chance to intervene early is fleeting. Doing so requires a sea change in funding for young people both from within the NHS and other budgets."

The Facts

In the UK, one in eight children or young people are affected by mental health problems - and around three quarters of those will experience mental health problems before the age of 24.

There was an increase of children with emotional disorders, such as anxiety or depression, in the past decade. The number of five to 15-year-olds with these disorders rose from 3.9 per cent in 2004 to 5.8 per cent in 2017.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 70 per cent of children and young people with a mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.

A survey of more than 9,000 young people in England found that young women, aged 17 to 19, are more than twice as likely to be struggling with anxiety and depression as young men the same age.

The 2017 survey into mental health with young people studied under-fives for the first time. It found that 5.5 per cent of children aged between two and four were experiencing a mental disorder.

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GOV UK

New research to improve treatment for adolescent mental health

  • £35 million programme will build a better understanding of the adolescent mind to improve the standards of care available

  • Mental health issues affect around one in eight children and young people

Vital improvements to treatments for mental health conditions amongst teenagers and young adults could be on the horizon thanks to new government-backed research.

In the UK, one in eight children or young people are affected by mental health problems. Approximately three-quarters of children or young people who experience mental health problems will do so before the age of 24.

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