On 22 November 2018, the NHS released the results of the 2017 survey of mental health in children and young people in England. This is the first major survey on this topic since 2004 and the first time it has included 2-4 year olds and 17-19 year olds. You may have seen media coverage, including from the BBC.
The summary is recommended reading. Main headlines are:
- The proportion of children with a mental health disorder has increased over time (10.1% in 2004 to 11.2% in 2017 for ages 5-15). However this slight increase in prevalence (mainly an increase in emotional disorders) is below what we might expect, given the significant increase in the number of young people referred for mental health services in Oxfordshire in recent years (see JSNA chapter on service use).
- Young people who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or with another sexual identity were more likely to have a mental disorder (34.9%) than those who identified as heterosexual (13.2%).
- Mental disorders tended to be more common in children living in lower income households. This was evident for emotional, behavioural and autism spectrum disorders, but not for hyperactivity or eating disorders.
- Professionals were seen as helpful by children and young people with mental disorders. The group seen as least helpful was primary care professionals (17% of 5-19 with a disorder who had contact said unhelpful or very unhelpful). For Social care professionals this was 12.4%. Educational support workers were the best rated (9.1% seeing them as unhelpful).
- More than 2/3rds who accessed professional services waited less than 10 weeks. 1 in 5 waited more than 6 months (longest for children with neuro disorders like hyperactivity and autism spectrum disorder).
- About 1 in 6 children (16%) with a mental disorder were taking medication (around 15% with a behavioural or emotional disorder and just under half with hyperactivity disorder).
Children with a mental disorder were more likely to be:
- white British
- living with poor physical health or a developmental problem
- making more use of social media (both frequency and hours spent)
- bullied (including cyber bullying)
- taking drugs, smoking, drinking alcohol
- excluded from school
- in a family context which includes adverse life events or poor family functioning (but note caution as these are associations and these data cannot be used to show cause)
(All cases of mental disorder in the survey were reviewed by clinically trained raters).