11/09/2018 09:22 BST

Children Are Becoming More Unwell While Waiting To Access Treatment For Their Mental Health

'The crisis in young people’s mental health is real and it’s urgent.'

Three-quarters of young people seeking mental health support become more unwell before they can access treatment, according to a report.

The report, by the charity YoungMinds, warns that it remains far too difficult for young people with emerging mental health problems to get the help they need, because of inadequate access to treatment alongside a “black hole” in local youth services.

In a survey of more than 2,000 parents and carers, the charity found that 76% of parents said their children’s mental health had deteriorated while waiting for support from CAMHS – and the longer children were left to wait, the more likely it was that their mental health worsened.

“The crisis in young people’s mental health is real and it’s urgent,” said Emma Thomas, chief executive of YoungMinds. “With the NHS Long Term Plan imminent, we cannot afford to miss the opportunity to build a system equipped to meet growing demand.”

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In the survey, 86% of parents whose children had waited more than six months for CAMHS said that their children’s mental health had deteriorated, including 64% who said that their children’s mental health had deteriorated “a lot”.

Worryingly, two-thirds (69%) of parents said that neither they nor their children had been signposted to any other form of support during the time they were waiting for support from CAMHS. 

In response to their findings, YoungMinds is calling for a new era for young people’s mental health, where help is available to every young person who reaches out. This would require an ambitious funding settlement matched by a fresh approach to supporting young people with emerging needs.

“Crucially we also need to invest in new ways for young people to get help early on, before they require more specialist treatment,” added Thomas. “Every community must have spaces where young people can go to feel safe, work through how they’re feeling, and learn strategies to help them manage and start to feel better.”

Alongside the new survey results, YoungMinds’ report shows that despite welcome extra investment in CAMHS since 2015, it remains the case that less than 1% of the total NHS budget is spent on children and young people’s mental health services. At the moment, around 8% of the total NHS mental health budget is spent on CAMHS. 

Even with the Government’s investment of an extra £1.4 billion from 2015 to 2020, NHS Services will only be able to provide treatment to one in three young people in need of metal health support. 

YoungMinds’ recommendations on improving child mental health services:

1. An ambitious new funding settlement that reflects the reality of the crisis

2. A bold new approach to getting the right support to young people before their needs escalate

3. Reformed crisis and specialist services, to improve the consistency and experience of care across the country

4. All young people given the skills, knowledge and resources to look after their mental health

5. An expanded specialist workforce, while making mental health the responsibility of all professionals working with young people.

What can parents do if their child is currently waiting for treatment?

Parents whose children are currently waiting for mental health treatment might feel at a loss with what they should do. Speaking to HuffPost UK, Emma Saddleton, YoungMinds’ parents helpline manager, said: “Every case is different, but we advise parents to be persistent and to be as clear as possible when dealing with professionals. So, for example, if your GP is making a referral, we advise you to write a summary in bullet points outlining your child’s symptoms and behaviour, the timeframes including when the problems began and at what point they escalated, the impact on the child and wider family and clarifying any risk or urgency.

“Ask the GP to fax this information directly to the mental health team alongside their referral form. This small step will ensure all relevant information is shared with the team responsible for assessing whether the referral is accepted and where the child is placed on the waiting list.”

Saddleton also said if you go with your child to a CAMHS assessment, it helps to have a clear list of questions you want to ask in advance so that you can get the answers you need. She also said it’s a good idea to research other services, like local charities or youth groups, that can provide help in the meantime.

And don’t forget the support you can give. “There’s also a lot you can do to support your child, just by being there for them,” Saddleton added. 

For more information and support:

PAPYRUS: Children and parents can contact HOPELineUK for advice and support from the national charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide. It is confidential and you will not be judged. Call 0800 0684141, text 07786209697 or email

Childline: Remind your child that Childline is there to give them free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at

YoungMinds: The parents helpline offers free, confidential online and telephone support, including information and advice, to any adult worried about the emotional problems, behaviour or mental health of a child or young person up to the age of 25. Call 0808 8025544.

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