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Children's mental health statistics

Young people have been great at opening up conversations about mental health. Many talk openly on social media about personal struggles. They've moved society forward, reduced the stigma surrounding mental health and made it a public issue. 

We still don't know the exact number of children battling issues like anxiety and depression, but here are some statistics about mental health that help tell the story.

mental health statistics 2020

1 in 6

children aged 5-16 likely to have a mental health problem¹

17 to 22

year old women are the group most at risk of developing a mental health problem¹

introduction to mental health

young boy blowing bubbles

How many young people have a mental health issue?

In the last three years, the likelihood of young people having a mental health problem has increased by 50%.

Our Good Childhood Report 2022 shows that children's happiness continues to decline. Now, five children in a classroom of 30 are likely to have a mental health problem.

Given the prevalence of mental health problems in children and young people, it's no surprise that psychotherapists on TikTok have amassed millions of followers and likes over the past year.

mental health statistics


of 17 to 23 year olds have experienced a deterioration in mental health in the last five years²


of those who do get referred into NHS services are not accepted into treatment³

accessing mental health treatment

Accessing mental health support

As the number of young people needing mental support shoots up, many are forced to find their own way of coping. Specialist services are overstretched and young people are often refused treatment or made to join a long waiting list.

In some cases, GPs pick up the slack. But many young people would rather not talk to their GP about mental health. There's still a stigma and it is beyond what a GP is trained to do.

More than two thirds of young people would prefer to be able to access mental health support without going through their GP.

girl looks happily into the distance

facts about young people's mental health


of 16-25 year olds said they had seen their GP about mental health at some point in their lives²


of 16-25 year olds said they knew other routes to mental health support without seeing their GP²

girl red hair white t-shirt smiling outside in street

Improving children's mental health

Right now children are not getting enough mental health support. The government must invest in places young people can go when they are struggling. No waiting lists. No referrals. Early support when they need it.

Early mental health support

In our research with Young Minds, the most common reason young people had for not going to their GP was not feeling like their problem was bad enough. But young people shouldn't have to wait for a mental health crisis to get help.

mental health statistics about early support


of all mental health problems start by the age of 14⁴


of 6 to 16 year olds had experienced deterioration in mental health since 2017⁵

What is the average waiting time to access mental health support for children in the UK?

35 days
5 days
15 days

Emotional health and wellbeing hubs

Early support services like our wellbeing drop-ins take the pressure of the NHS and provide a place for young people to talk about what's going on in their lives.

Our BEAM and Pause wellbeing services helped 3,400 young people last year.

They have been shown to reduce psychological distress in young people, including self-harm, and are more appealing to those less likely to engage with NHS support - young men, LGBTQ+ and young black and minoritised ethnic communities. They have also been shown to save costs across the health system. 

But there needs to be more funding for early support services across the country - where young people can build resilience, work through their feelings, learn to cope with the stresses of growing up. No waiting lists.

The world should open up and help people with mental health


1. Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2020: NHS digial, 22 October 2020;
2. First port of call, The Children’s Society, 18 June 2021;
3. Waiting in line, The Children’s Society, 1 February 2021;
4. Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62 (6) pp. 593-602. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.62.6.593;
5. Mental Health of Children and Young People in England 2021 - wave 2 follow up, NHS Digital, 30 September 2021;