The state of youth mental health

A Relate report in 2011 stated that by the time an average class of 30 young people reach their 16th birthdays:

  • 10 of them will have witnessed their parents separate
  • 3 will have suffered from mental health problems
  • 8 will have experienced severe physical violence, sexual abuse or neglect
  • 3 will be living in a step-family
  • 1 will have experienced the death of a parent
  • 7 will report having been bullied.

Mental health problems in young people are common. Fact.

  • The last national survey ONS, 2004 [PDF] determined that one in ten children and young people (CYP) have a diagnosable mental disorder.
  • 50% of all diagnosable mental health problems start around 14-15 years old.
  • An accurate, current picture of youth mental health is not available, due to lack of up-to-date data, as identified by the Chief Medical Officer and the RCPsych.
  • Work by key national charities has shown that self-harm and bullying are rising.
  • The rise in youth mental health problems is likely to be influenced by the rising pressures on families, including economic pressures.
  • 1 in 3 CYP in the UK live in poverty and poor mental health is over represented in low income families.
  • CYP with poor mental health have poorer physical health, are more likely to smoke and make riskier health choices.
  • Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) have experienced significant cuts in funding over the past 3 years
  • There is marked geographical variation in service provision, with access to specialist services often proving difficult.
  • The roll out of CYP Improved Access to Psychological Therapies (CYP IAPT) is a welcome development but has not resulted in increased posts.

In response, the RCGP nominated Youth Mental Health as a clinical priority in January 2013. This priority will run for 3 years.

Dr Jane H Roberts is the Youth Mental Health Clinical Champion and can be contacted at

Dr Frances Baawuah is the Youth Mental Health Clinical Support Fellow and can be contacted on

Please address initial queries regarding the Youth Mental Health Clinical Priority to Dr Baawuah. General queries can be sent to

You can find additional resources on the child and adolescent health and mental health resource pages.

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