20 Nov 2019

Almost half a million children who are worried about their feelings or behaviour are not asking anyone for help, according to new figures by The Children’s Society.


The research from the charity’s annual household survey of 10-17 year olds in England, Scotland and Wales estimates that up to 464,000 children, who report being worried about their feelings or behaviour, are not telling anyone about their concerns. The charity warns that without early support, the mental health of these children could be at risk of deteriorating and reaching crisis point.


The survey asked children whether they had ever been worried about their feelings and behaviour and, if so, where they had sought help. Over half (58%) said that they had asked for help because of concerns about their feelings and behaviours whereas 8% of young people indicated they had not sought help even though they did have worries.


Of those who said they had asked for help, 3 in 4 (77%) said they had gone to close family such as siblings or parents, followed by 38% who were helped by friends and 36% who were supported by an adult at school such as a teacher[1].


Earlier this year The Children’s Society found that around 110,000 10-17 year olds are being turned away from mental health services each year because their problems are not deemed ‘serious’ enough [2] and 2 in 5 parents who seek help for their child do not receive any support [3]. Demand for mental health support continues to climb, yet this could be the tip of the iceberg as this latest data shows many children are still not even reaching out and their problems are staying under the radar. 


While the research does not reveal the reasons for children not seeking support, experts from the charity say other evidence suggests that stigma, not having a local place children can easily go for support and feeling like they may be turned away if they do reach out may be behind the figures.  


One 15 year old boy said: ‘Because, like, I feel like inside…someone’s head they’re probably laughing at me. So that’s why I don’t really open up to someone.’


A 14 year old girl said: ‘It’s like for me I didn’t really ask for support because I held everything in but it was hard to talk to people and talk about everything that has happened.’


Mark Russell, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: “The voices of children matter and if any child is having worries about their feelings or behaviour they should not have to suffer in silence. It’s a travesty that such vast numbers of children who clearly need help are not telling anyone at all.  


“We know that despite progress to break down stigma it is still a major barrier for young people. There could also be many other reasons that children aren’t seeking help due to practical issues like nowhere they can go locally or no transport. 


“It’s vital children get help at an early stage to stop issues from spiraling. The next government needs to prioritise access to immediate emotional and mental health support for all children through their school or in their community so they can drop-in and chat when they need to.”


Clare Rowland, Mental Health Youth Worker at The Children’s Society, said: “Many young people who are struggling with their feelings or behaviour will not meet the criteria or threshold to access specialist NHS mental health services. This results in young people being turned away when they are at their most vulnerable, often leaving them feeling abandoned and alone.


“Drop-in services like ours welcome any young person who is having issues with their emotional well-being or mental health. There is no threshold that must be met to access support, and we encourage young people to simply drop in for a chat with one of our staff and see what support we can offer. It is so important that young people are able to find help as soon as they need it, before their problems get worse.”


Clare added: “If parents are concerned about their child’s mental health and would like some guidance on how to talk to them about these issues, The Children’s Society has created resources on their website.”: https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/news-and-blogs/our-blog/how-to-talk-to-young-people-about-mental-health 




Media enquiries  

For more information, please call The Children’s Society’s Media team on 020 7841 4422 or email media@childrenssociety.org.uk. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508. 


Notes to editor


  • The research is taken from The Children's Society's Reaching Out report. 
  • The Children’s Society’s Household survey includes data from 2,300 10-17 year olds from socio-economically representative households in England, Scotland and Wales 
  • The briefing reveals that 8% of children surveyed did not seek help if they were worried about their feelings or behaviour. Applying this proportion to the ONS 2018 mid-year population estimates for 10 to 17 year olds, we estimate that over 464,000 children of this age in England, Scotland and Wales may have worries about their feelings and behaviour but have not sought help.
    • [1] Children could choose more than one option in the survey.
    • [2] From The Children’s Society’s Finding Help Report based on responses to Freedom of Information requests sent to 63 mental health providers in England. 26 providers responded (response rate of 41%) for areas that serve 45% of the 10-17 year old population in England. The data covers the year 1 January – 31 December 2017.
    • [3] The Finding Help report also includes a survey of 1,004 parents commissioned by The Children’s Society in August 2018 carried out by Opinium – a randomly generated sample of parents with children of school age (4-17yrs). 
    • The Children’s Society is a national charity that works with the most vulnerable children and young people in Britain today. We listen. We support. We act. Because no child should feel alone.