One in 8 children have a diagnosable mental health condition – that’s roughly three children in every classroom.

Many thousands of young people go through periods of mental ill health, and when this happens it can be difficult for them to make and keep friends, manage at school and feel awesome about themselves.


These statistics show just how big the problem of mental ill health for young people is in the UK.

  • 1 in 6 young people aged 16 – 24 has symptoms of a common mental disorder such as depression or an anxiety disorder
  •  half of all mental health problems manifest by the age of 14, with 75% by age 24
  • nearly half of 17 – 19 year olds with a diagnosable mental health disorder has self-harmed or attempted suicide at some point, rising to 52.7% for young women
  • 1 in 3 adult mental health conditions relate directly to adverse childhood experiences
  • The number of A&E attendances by young people aged 18 or under with a recorded diagnosis of a psychiatric condition has almost tripled since 2010


Mostly things that happen to children don’t lead to mental health problems on their own, but traumatic events can trigger problems for children and young people who are already vulnerable.

Changes often act as triggers: moving home or school or the birth of a new brother or sister, for example. Some children who start school feel excited about making new friends and doing new activities, but there may also be some who feel anxious about entering a new environment.

Teenagers often experience emotional turmoil as their minds and bodies develop. An important part of growing up is working out and accepting who you are. Some young people find it hard to make this transition to adulthood and may experiment with alcohol, drugs or other substances that can affect mental health.


These are some of the mental health problems that can affect children and young people.

  • Depression – although more common in adults, depression affects more children and young people today than in the last few decades
  • Self-harm is a very common problem among young people. Some people find it helps them manage intense emotional pain if they harm themselves, through cutting or burning, for example
  • Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) can cause young people to become extremely worried. Very young children or children starting or moving school may have separation anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can follow physical or sexual abuse, witnessing something extremely frightening of traumatising, being the victim of violence or severe bullying or surviving a disaster
  • Children who are consistently overactive (‘hyperactive’), behave impulsively and have difficulty paying attention may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Many more boys than girls are affected
  • Eating disorders usually start in the teenage years and are more common in girls than boys. The number of young people who develop an eating disorder is small, but eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa can have serious consequences for their physical health and development