Posted: 05 February 2019

Talking Change: young people's mental health

For many young people struggling with mental health problems, getting the help they urgently need can be difficult.

Long waiting times, strict criteria for access, and real uncertainty once you turn 18 are just some of the obstacles young people face in a system failing to meet the level of need.

The government has promised to transform the system for supporting children and young people’s mental health – but does it stack up? 


The mental health of thousands of children and young people is reaching crisis point

Recent mental health statistics have shown us that a staggering number of children and young people across the country are struggling with mental ill health. The current system within the NHS (known as CAMHS) for supporting these young people is not working, with many unable to get help until their situation reaches crisis point.  Even when they do get access, there's an average wait of 94 days to begin treatment.  

With 1 in 8 children aged 5 to 19 known to have a mental health condition in 2017, we need a better system for the young people who need mental health support and are unable to get it. 

The Government has recently unveiled a bold and ambitious set of reforms which they promise will transform the way we approach children and young people’s mental health in this country. However,  significant detail is still lacking, and the success of these reforms will be contingent on the Government’s willingness to address longstanding funding and staffing challenges within CAMHS.  

Children and young people need mental health support right now

The government’s reforms are undoubtedly a step forward that everybody wants to see succeed, but the lengthy rollout period means the majority of young people will not see anything change until the trial period ends in 2023. How will these young people be supported with their mental health, whilst they wait for the government’s reforms to reach their communities?

In recent years, the Children’s Society has pioneered a different approach to a mental health service, based on the idea of an open door drop-in centre.  The first, Pause, opened in Birmingham city centre in 2016. We would like to see more of these open-access drop-in hubs opened across the country, so that children can just walk in and talk to someone on their terms, when they need it, without all the formality and delay of more traditional services. 

Talking Change podcast, episode 3

Listen to our podcast to find out more, and hear from a range of different voices about CAMHS, the government’s reforms and children’s mental health in general.

Our featured guests are:


Charlotte Rainer – Mental health policy officer

Claire Rowland – Youth Worker at Pause Birmingham

Young volunteers at Pause Birmingham

Luciana Berger – MP for Liverpool Wavertree


Listen to our other podcasts and read more about The Children’s Society’s work to support young people’s mental health.

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