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The long, painful wait for mental health support

When children and young people struggle with their mental health and emotional wellbeing, they’re often left waiting until they reach a crisis point to receive the help they need. The longer a child has to wait, the worse they might feel. But by understanding the need for early intervention, we can ensure young people receive timely support when they first need it.


Rising pressure

People of all ages can struggle with their mental health, but young people today face unique challenges. They live more of their lives online. Apps like TikTok can negatively affect children’s mental health by exposing them to hateful content, or influencers with seemingly perfect lives. 

Additionally, the cost of living crisis is putting huge pressure on young people and their families, as worries about money make it harder than ever for children to be children.

Rising pressure

A teenager with light skin and neon yellow hair talks to an adult with dark skin and curly black hair in a classroom setting.

Robert is a specialist mental health support worker in our Rise service in Newcastle. He says that it’s vital to listen to young people about what they need. “It’s important to listen to the young people as our experiences of childhood differ from the issues that they face today.”

“Young people are often always connected to the outside world and have limited spaces to find calm and process the many different things that happen throughout their day.” 

young girl looking direclty at viewer

Listening to young people's voices

When Rosie was 11, things were really difficult. When she received support from one of our therapy services, she felt like she could breathe again. “To be honest, if it wasn’t for The Children’s Society, I probably wouldn’t be here. Supporters should know that they’re doing something amazing.”

Reaching crisis point

Reaching crisis point

Mental health can feel a bit like a pressure-cooker. A child starts to feel the heat of all the stresses in their life, but many don’t feel like they can — or should — speak to anyone about it. The pressure builds, until suddenly it boils over. For many young people, it won’t get to this point. But when it does, it can have devastating effects.

For some young people, this means panic attacks. For others, it’s self-harm. For still more, it’s closing themselves off, maybe even running away.

A teenager with short curly hair and medium-dark skin is sitting on a ledge outside, looking sad.

Reaching crisis point

When young people reach a crisis point, they need specialist support such as intensive therapy, or medication. Far too often, that support just isn’t available. At school particularly, thousands of children are going without mental health support, and teachers are overstretched.

"With mental health, it’s almost like things have got to hit crisis point for anybody to do something. And a lot of the time it’s not salvageable from that point. Things have already gone too far, and there's no coming back from it."

A teenager's hands are in the foreground, with an adult with a clipboard talking to them in the background.

Things have already gone too far, and there's no coming back from it. Things have already gone too far, and there's no coming back from it.

– Young person

Reaching crisis point

When young people have to wait for professional help, they can become even more emotionally isolated. They might feel that they have no one to talk to or that nobody cares. And they may not yet have the skills and tools they need to cope when things get worse. 

Having someone to speak to in those specific moments where I'd been feeling like ‘I'm done’ - it really mattered.

Stepping in early

The longer young people have to wait for support, the worse their situation gets. By spotting the signs of worsening mental health as early as possible, we can ensure a child doesn’t have to wait in the dark any longer. 

‘It frustrates me that for people to get the support they need things have got to come to crisis point. If things were there for young people earlier on, then it doesn’t have to get to crisis point. If you deal with the little problems while they’re little, it doesn’t have to snowball,' said a young person.

Robert from Rise feels that early intervention in schools and colleges can make a big difference. 

If young people can learn strategies to help manage their mental health before crisis point, they can go on to achieve better outcomes in both their personal and academic lives.

Schools play a vital role in protecting young people’s mental health. We're campaigning for all schools to have mental health support teams in place, with long-term funding. But currently, only 50% of schools are set to have mental health support in place by 2025. We’re running vital early intervention and wellbeing services across the country so that we can be here for children when they’re struggling. By donating to The Children’s Society, your support can help reduce the number of young people waiting for professional support. Children can’t wait any longer to be heard. 

Author: Tarini Tiwari

Girl stands next to railings

Let's help children be heard

This Christmas, you can play a huge role in making sure a child doesn’t have to wait in pain any longer. There’s so much that young people are waiting for: adequate and more fully funded support services; political attention and action to reform the systems and services around them; and fundamentally, to be heard. Together, we can make this happen.