·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Mental Health

England Sees Spike in Referrals for Kid Mental Health Emergencies

— February 29, 2024

The country’s providers struggle to keep up with youth mental health crises.

As more and more adults deal with mental health challenges, it should not be forgotten that children are not exempt from these issues. In fact, mental health difficulties can be even worse in young people, as they don’t have the knowledge and life experiences to deal with such difficulties successfully. As is being seen in England, this is a problem that is only getting worse and there really isn’t an endpoint in sight at this time.

It’s not necessary to look any further than the raw data to see just how serious this problem is. With the recent numbers provided in England, it’s easy to see that serious mental health issues are far from rare, and in fact they are all too common across the country.

In the years between 2019 and 2023, the demand for emergency mental health services for children increased by a shocking 53% in England. The total numbers of children that needed this kind of emergency referral was also concerningly high, as there were tens of thousands of cases to be counted.

With so many young people reaching out for emergency help, it would be encouraging if the resources were there for those young people right when they need them, but that’s not been the case. In fact, the waiting list time averages around five months to get help, and it can extend out for years in some cases. Obviously, that doesn’t mean the definition of “emergency” care, and it is frequently too late when the assistance finally does become available.

England Sees Spike in Referrals for Kid Mental Health Emergencies
Photo by cottonbro studio from Pexels

The statistics really don’t leave room for any conclusion other than to say that action is necessary as soon as possible. Young people across England, and in many other places, clearly need help that they are not getting. An emergency referral is only made when a young person is having suicidal feelings or facing other very serious health risks as a result of their mental health condition, yet there is not enough support to get help for those young people promptly.

Some of the goals that have been outlined to hopefully bring this problem under control include expanding the number of mental health support teams in schools within the next couple of years. Also, additional money needs to be put into the overall mental health care system to make sure providers are available and wait times can be brought down into a reasonable range.

Mental health care, especially in cases where individuals are in the middle of a crisis, should be as readily available as physical health care. It really is that simple. When people can’t get the mental health care they need in a timely manner, it’s the same as not being able to get that care at all. Problems escalate amid long wait times. More resources need to be made available to deal with this problem, and more public attention needs to be turned toward the issue to support those resources and make it easier for people to reach out when they need help – regardless of their age.


Children’s emergency mental health referrals in England soar by 53%

Emergency mental health referrals for children increase by more than half in the past three years as doctors warns young people are reaching ‘crisis point’ before receiving care

Join the conversation!