In May 2023, 3,732 referrals were made to mental health crisis teams – more than triple the amount from May 2019 and a 46% increase from 2022 (Young Minds). NHS data has revealed that in addition to the urgent referrals, the number of open referrals for young people under 18, or those waiting to receive support, had reached a record of 466,250 in May 2023.

We regularly hear from parents and professionals that not enough support is available and they don’t know where to turn. With many people not being able to access private support, there is a huge gap leading to a worsening situation.

The Government’s pledge to reform the outdated Mental Health Act has seemingly now been abandoned. Dr Sarah Hughes, the CEO of Mind stated: “The long overdue Mental Health Bill is a chance to overhaul the way the system works when people are in a mental health crisis. It is an opportunity to address the deep racial injustices in the use of the Act, with Black people being four times more likely to be detained. It is also a crucial chance to prevent people being stripped of their dignity, voice and independence when they are sectioned. That chance has now been missed, and the UK government has broken its promise to thousands of people, their loved ones and the nation as a whole to reform the Act.” Young Minds said abandoning the mental health plan has “further delayed government action for young people’s mental health” and that the new strategy “falls far short of what’s needed”.

In real terms, parents and professionals want to know where to turn to help young people. Here are some suggestions:

Education staff regularly report feeling under pressure to manage mental health issues in addition to their regular workload. However, schools and colleges are ideally placed to provide early identification and intervention. The NHS are rolling out a programme of Mental Health Support Teams in schools, with 500 expected to be in place by 2024. They deliver interventions for mild to moderate mental health issues and can advise staff on how to provide effective support. Some schools and colleges also fund their own counselling and wellbeing service and most provide pastoral support. Schools can also use funding to access alternative provision. Speak to your school about what they can offer.

Alternative support
Chasing the Stigma, a national mental health charity, have developed a database of support across the country: Hub of Hope. You can search to find what is available in your area.

Charities and not-for-profit organisations work both nationally and locally to provide emotional and mental health support. Have a look what’s in your area. Here are some more well-known options:
Childline (under 19)
The Mix (under 25)
The LGBT Foundation
Andy’s Man Club (Men aged 18+)
Young Minds’ Parent Helpline

Self-help resources
Self-help resources can work well alongside external support, but can be used on their own to address some difficulties. Have a look at our Resources page for some suggestions.
Resource Page
As well as books, apps and videos, young people often find journals and creative resources helpful. Put together a pack or list of easily accessible options.

Holistic wellbeing
Mental health difficulties can be helped by using holistic approaches. The NHS have developed a ‘5 ways to wellbeing’ model which includes:
• Connect
• Be Active
• Learn new skills
• Give to others.
• Mindfulness
Work with a young person to plan how they can build some of these into their routine, whether it’s going for a walk, doing an after-school club, accessing a holistic service, signing up to an online course or downloading a mindfulness app.

The current system of mental health support for young people can feel overwhelming and frustrating, we often hear parents refer to it as a ‘constant battle’. While the fight goes on to improve provision at a basic level, we hope that some of these options help you to make steps forward.