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Almost 1 million young people contacted mental health services in the past year

Image of teenager footwear
Aedrian | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

Newly released figures show that almost 1 in 4 girls aged 16 in England have been in contact with NHS mental health services over the last 12 months.

The figures also show a significant increase in how many teenagers and children contact these services, hitting almost a million in a year.

This increase can be seen across all age groups, with just under 1 in 5 more people seeking help for their mental health compared with three years ago.

Since 2021/22, there has been a 29% increase in the number of people aged under 18 contacting mental health, autism and learning disability services compared with 2020/21.

In exact figures, 992,647 under 18s contacted support services in 2021/22 compared with 768,083 in 2020/21.

Breaking these figures down further, 17% of 17-year-olds (101,694) and 18% of 16-year-olds (114,203) from England have contacted these mental health and support services over the past 12 months.

Of all of those seeking help aged under 18, 16-year-old girls were the most likely, with 23% (69,580) contacting mental health and support services over the past 12 months.

Worryingly, this increase in seeking help is also observed in 11-15 year olds, with 498,558 seeking help in 2021/22 compared with 359,681 – a massive 39% increase.

Head of External Affairs at YoungMinds, Olly Parker said:

"These figures demonstrate the unprecedented crisis happening in young people's mental health, with almost one in five 16-year-olds across the country in contact with mental health services. The situation is unsustainable.

"Thousands of young people are seeking mental health support but too many are being told to wait, struggling to cope and hitting crisis point before they get help.

"We know young women in particular face a wide range of pressures that may affect their mental health - from school stress to difficult relationships with family or friends and problems and concerns about body image often exacerbated by social media.

"For years politicians have promised to end the crisis in young people's mental health. But the reality is that with every month of inaction, things are getting worse."

Nasal spray shows promise in treatment-resistant depression

A nasal spray for treating treatment-resistant depression (TRD) has shown positive results.

The results come from a phase 3b clinical trial, aimed at evaluating the long and short-term efficacy and safety of the drug.

The data, presented at the German Association for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics Congress, found that the nasal spray significantly improved participants' ability to achieve remission when taken with traditional anti-depressants.

Additionally, they remained relapse-free up after 32 weeks of treatment.

Principal Investigator for the ESCAPE-TRD trial, Professor Andreas Reif, said:

“Achieving remission and remaining relapse-free are major milestones in the treatment of depression and are especially challenging in TRD, where patients have not responded to previous therapies.

“The ESCAPE-TRD findings showed that esketamine nasal spray enabled a significantly greater percentage of patients to achieve remission at Week 8 and remain relapse-free in the longer term up to Week 32 compared to quetiapine extended-release.

“This provides further evidence for the use of esketamine nasal spray in this difficult-to-treat population and offers hope for the millions of people affected by TRD.”

UK mental health hasn't recovered since the beginning of the pandemic

Figures show that the UK's mental health is not recovering since the onset of the pandemic, despite the easing of restrictions which were seen as a ‘turning point’ for people’s mental health.

Online research conducted by YouGov for Rethink Mental Illness has shown that mental health has degraded further since the start of 2022 – a time when the UK was in the middle of the Omicron wave and some restrictions.

Specifically, it was found that 29% of UK adults feel that their mental health has worsened since the start of the year, compared with 21% who felt their mental health had improved.

For those that mental health had worsened since the start of the year:

  • 21% reported experiencing panic attacks

  • 20% reported suicidal thoughts

  • 12% reported having a mental health crisis that required professional support

Two major reasons given for the UK's deteriorating mental health is the war in Ukraine and the worsening cost-of-living crisis.

This can also be seen amongst the nation's younger adults, with 32% of 18-24-year-olds who reported worsening mental health also reporting suicidal thoughts, and 24% reporting a mental health crisis that required professional support.

All age groups reported worryingly common negative feelings, with 77% having a low mood, 74% feeling worried or anxious, and 60% having difficulty sleeping.

Deputy Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness, Brian Dow said:

"The pandemic confined us to our homes, separating us from our family and friends and turning our daily routines upside down, and for many this triggered a decline in their mental health.

"The end of pandemic restrictions earlier this year was supposed to mark a turning point, when we could start to heal and finally return to our former lives. But this survey reveals that, in the absence of lockdowns and social distancing, our mental health has failed to rebound and startling numbers of people are experiencing suicidal thoughts or reaching crisis.

"Households are now grappling with a cost of living crisis, and with difficult times ahead as the country hits recession, the government urgently needs to prioritise mental health more than ever."

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