Posted: 14 May 2019

Vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds struggle to access the mental health support they need

As 16 and 17 year olds gain greater independence and deal with the changes that come with adolescence, they become the age group most likely to experience mental health difficulties.

The mental health section of our Transitions into Adulthood report, produced in partnership with Youth Access and Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition, shows how many vulnerable teenagers end up falling through the cracks of both child and adult mental health services. 


Mental health services for teenagers need more support

16 and 17 year olds are the biggest users of NHS mental health services. The Government have made a number of positive steps to reform mental health support in educational settings, however many 16 and 17 year olds who need help won't be in education. 

The Children’s Society’s Crumbling Futures research found that 16 and 17 year olds known to children’s services were more likely to be not in education, employment or training (NEET). Further clarification is needed on how the Government's reforms plan to reach all young people.

1 in 6 17 to 19 year olds experience a mental health problem

The NHS Long Term Plan sets out ambitious plans to support this age group, but at present local mental health services vary greatly in quality across the country. More needs to be done to ensure consistency of support.

Investment in services for 16 to 25 year olds over the next few years will be crucial to support 16 and 17 year olds to transition into adulthood. We know that early intervention in young adult years can be effective in reducing life-course impairment, but right now young adults are currently less likely to receive treatment than other age groups.

'By the time they found someone else, I was too old for CAMHS and adult services wouldn't take me till I was 18' - Hannah

Hannah struggled to get counselling through Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), her therapist 'basically disappeared after a couple of really difficult sessions'. She was left with no support and it was only when she got in touch with local Youth Information Advice and Counselling Service (YIACS) that she began to deal with her experiences.

How teenagers moving into adulthood can access help

There are a number of models beginning to address the needs of 16 and 17 year olds. YIACS provide holistic support for young people's emotional, health, social and practical needs, putting a particular focus on tackling transition periods. Also, Camden's Minding the Gap programme has worked with a young people’s board to develop a transitions protocol and training programme for CAMHS workers.

As more transitional mental health services are developed, it will be increasingly important that such models and practice are evidence based and are evaluated for impact on young people’s outcomes, to ensure that they are effective for all children and young people.



By Kaja Zuvac-Graves

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