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Child mental health: is it in crisis?
Child mental health: is it in crisis?

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1 Is there a crisis?

Newspaper headlines stating ‘The teenage mental health crisis is now a societal disaster’, ‘Youth mental health is in crisis. Are schools doing enough?’, ‘Child mental health services at “breaking point” as referrals rise’, ‘Parents in plea for support as mental health crisis takes toll on youngsters’ and ‘Campaigners warn the UK is facing mental health crisis for youth’.

UK newspapers paint a disturbing picture of children and young people’s mental health, portraying it as an emergency or a crisis, as highlighted by the headlines cited above. There are many factors that are often cited as creating a ‘crisis’. These include the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the harmful effects of social media, children being concerned about global warming or young people worrying about their family’s ability to pay for their household’s necessities, such as food.

Before looking at some data, you will consider your own thoughts about whether the UK is facing a child and adolescent mental health crisis.

Activity 1 Are we facing a crisis?

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Part 1

Spend less than 5 minutes thinking about what your initial response is to the statement below, if you had to pick from one of the following five options. Note that you will be able to see the results of all those participating in this poll, but no individual will be identified.

We are facing a crisis in terms of the mental health of children and young people in the UK

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Part 2

Reflect on why you selected the response you did. How did you define ‘crisis’ (i.e. what constitutes a crisis)?

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In terms of your reasoning about whether there is a crisis or not, what guided your thinking? Was it that you thought that all young people that need professional help can’t get it or conversely that relevant services for children and young people are currently adequate and meeting the needs of service users? Or is it that you thought the majority (i.e. more than half) of all children and young people have mental health problems or by contrast that the majority are doing well enough? Or, assuming you think there is a crisis, is it that you suspect rates of mental health problems have gone up significantly?