Youth psychiatric hospital admissions in England rose by a fifth between 2012 and 2016, largely due to a rise in the number of teenager and child mental health cases, according to new figures.
Two health organisations called for more to be done to increase support for mental health sufferers as a new survey reveals the UK is the only industrialised country that sees fewer of its population graduating from high school than in 1980.
Deaths from suicide among 16 to 24-year-olds in England and Wales more than doubled in the last 20 years, with an 8.7% rise in 2016/17, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This rise comes as secondary pupils in the UK are seeing more mental health challenges than ever before, the Department of Health says.
There were 2,325 self-harm incidents involving 16 to 24-year-olds in 2016/17 – representing 1.3% of all young people – a rise of 73% since 1997.
The department also recorded a 45% increase in “disorderly behaviour”, which included 12 episodes of actual or attempted self-harm, between 2012/13 and 2015/16.
In addition, the number of all deaths under the age of 45 in England fell 9% between 2001 and 2015, from 173,217 to 154,435, making it the fifth-lowest rate for under-45s in the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) since 1990.
“While the childhood and adolescent mental health crisis is serious and is largely driven by the rise in the number of children and young people receiving treatment, improving outcomes must start at a young age,” said Joanna Williams, chair of the YoungMinds charity.
“Youth mental health services are woefully underfunded and it’s far too easy for young people to slip through the net.”
The Government says the number of children receiving mental health treatment in England increased by 43% over the last five years, and for children and young people, the mental health crisis can start early.
Professor Lesley Regan, head of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), said: “We want to enable every child and young person who needs help, whether that’s mental or physical, to get the help they need.
“This new guidance sets out Nice’s approach to improving the mental health and care of under-18s by looking at prevention and early intervention, early identification and diagnosis, and for children to access treatment who may be falling through the cracks.”
Unison has called for the Government to address the underfunding of mental health services.
“Many people rely on mental health services but as budgets are squeezed some acute wards are closing to fit for ever more patients,” said the union’s NHS and Social Care spokesman and professor of mental health Peter Carter.
“Failing to offer proper treatment to young people with mental health issues will result in other problems – especially addiction – in later life.”
Young people spend a quarter of their lives in educational institutions, the survey found.
On average, England’s teenage population continues to go to school for nine years – slightly more than three more years than in 1980.
In 1996, the number of pupils going on to study further at some stage in their education peaked at 14.3%, a record high.
But in 2017/18, the proportion of 16 to 19-year-olds going to university fell to 11.6%, the first fall since the 1960s.
In 2016/17, 34% of young people aged 16 to 19 in England were deemed good or outstanding at GCSE, down from 40% in 2000/01.
After teenagers leave secondary school, more are receiving mental health treatment, particularly for substance misuse.
Prof Regan’s new guidance, set out in a form letter, advises Heads to identify and manage physical and mental health needs at the same time.
But it says the Government’s plans to address the mental health crisis have not been “sufficiently taken forward”.
In addition, Prof Regan’s document says: “Children and young people already without enough support have fewer support services than others.”
A department of health spokesman said: “While many welcome the focus on action and prevention, there is clearly much more to do. We’ve introduced record investment for mental health in our Mental Health Strategy, and recently announced a new £20m mental health training package to make doctors more resilient to the mental health needs of their patients.
“Mental health is a priority in our public health agenda and the coalition government has put young people at the heart of the work to improve mental health, including ensuring vulnerable children and young people are properly supported, and reducing the stigma around mental health.”