Britain's youth mental health crisis is deepening - so why is it so hard for young people to get help?

More and more young people are talking about their mental health than ever before - so why are so many seeking help still being let down so badly?

A new report says care services in Britain are improving, yet only a "small fraction" of children got the support they needed last year.

More often they got turned away - and even those selected for treatment are being let down by the system.

The latest official figures released on Thursday revealed the true extent of the problem, with one in eight people under age of 19 in England found to have a mental disorder in 2017.

How badly are children being let down?

The scale of Britain's youth mental health crisis has been exposed in a new report issued by the Children's Commissioner for England on Thursday.

It found of the more than 338,000 children referred to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) last year:

  • What do the NHS figures reveal?

A major new report on mental health in England released on Thursday by NHS Digital highlighted the scale of the problem.

The figures, based on a survey of 9,117 children and young people, found 12.8% of young people had a mental disorder in England in 2017, while emotional disorders have become more common in five to 15-year-olds rising from 4.3% in 1999 to 5.8% in 2017.

The report showed that the incidence of disorders rose to one in six for people aged 17 to 19, with females in this age bracket more than twice as likely as males of the same age to have a mental disorder.

For the first time the survey covered children as young as two, with one in 18 (5.5%) preschool children found to have least one mental disorder.

Teenagers aged 14 to 19 years old who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or with another sexual identity, were more than twice as likely (34.9%) to have a mental disorder, as opposed to those who identified as heterosexual (13.2%).

So why can't children get access to mental health services?

Many young people are left to struggle without professional help.

Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield said services are not getting the funding or facilities to meet the demand for treatment.

She praised progress in some services but said "the rate of improvement is highly variable".

She said children's mental health services need an extra £1.7 billion a year.

The report found local NHS areas spend an average of just 1% of their budgets on children's mental health.

Why haven't improvements helped?

The Children's Commissioner warned: "The increase in capacity is not keeping pace with increasing demand.

"Less than 3% of children in England accessed CAMHS last year, a small fraction of those who need help."

The report also found young people have to wait longer than adults for treatment.

Of the children who actually entered treatment last year, only half did so within six weeks.

That compares unfavourably to the 89.1% of adults who get access to talking therapy for anxiety and depression within the same time frame.

Which areas of England are struggling the most?

Clinical commissioning groups across England are still performing badly despite improvements elsewhere. Credit: PA

The commissioner said she welcomed progress being made in "some parts of the country" but highlighted the areas across England most in need of improvement.

Ealing clinical commissioning group (CCG) was described as the "worst performing area" followed by Hounslow, Hammersmith and Fulham, Harrow and Hillingdon.

Other areas with poorly performing CCGs include Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Bristol, Bradford and Leicester.

What does the children's commissioner want done about it?

Ms Longfield wants the £1.7 billion funding put towards a large expansion of specialist treatment services for children and more help in schools.

"There also needs to be a focus on early help," she said.

"An NHS-funded counsellor in every school, providing a service that is accessible and child-friendly, would be transformative."

She added: "I want to see the Government and NHS England dramatically increasing the level of ambition for children's mental health services.

"By 2023, the NHS should be in a position to ensure no child who needs help is turned away."

In response to the findings, Lily Makurah, national lead for mental health at Public Health England, said: "We know mental health influences children's ability to cope with the normal stresses of life, to learn productively, to develop positive relationships and to make a contribution to our community.

"We're working with partners to minimise risks for children and young people and enhance factors that promote and protect positive mental health at key stages across a child's life."

Where can you get help?

If you are in distress or need some support, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on 116 123 or through their website.

Other useful links include: