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Children and Young People’s Mental Health

Emotional health plays a huge role in how children and young people think, feel, behave and develop.

Poor emotional health and wellbeing can lead to a range of mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, depression and panic attacks. This can make it difficult for a child or young person to feel positive about their sense of identity and subsequently undermine their relationships with family and friends.

Statistical information on the emotional health and wellbeing of children and young people in England is published by the NHS. The UK Government issues guidance to schools on their responsibilities to children and young people in terms of promoting mental well-being, as well as important research on published policies in this area.

Maintaining good mental health

Good mental health is not simply the absence of diagnosable mental health problems, although good mental health is likely to help protect against development of many such problems.

Good mental health is characterised by a child or young person’s ability to fulfil a number of key daily living activities, including:

  • the ability to learn
  • the ability to feel, express and manage a range of positive and negative emotions
  • the ability to form and maintain good relationships with others
  • the ability to cope with and manage change and uncertainty.

Resources to support children and young people self-manage their emotional and mental health is available from a range of organisations including Young Minds, Mind, NHS, The Zone and Kooth

Parents, carers and professionals

Support to children and young people from parents, carers and professionals is as equally important to self-help strategies. Mind and Young Minds both provide some useful resources in this area.

Resources for parents and carers and professionals are also available through a free educational resource provided by MindED. Information on diagnosable mental health conditions and on mental health medication is available from Hedmeds.

Looked after children

Although looked after children have many of the same health issues as their peers, the extent of these is often greater because of their past experiences. For example, almost half of children in care have a diagnosable mental health disorder and two-thirds have special educational needs. Delays in identifying and meeting the emotional well-being and mental health needs of children and young people in care can have far-reaching effects on all aspects of their lives, including their chances of reaching their potential and leading happy and healthy lives as adults.

Promoting the health and wellbeing of looked-after children is a statutory priority for local authority children’s services. Resources for professionals who are working with looked after children and young people are published by the Social Care institute for excellence (SCie). The UK Government’s guidance to schools on their responsibilities to children and young people in terms of promoting mental well-being, incorporates specific duties to looked after and former looked after children.

Mental health support

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS): The role of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services is to promote the mental health and psychological well-being of children and young people.

The Zone Plymouth: The Zone offers a wide range of information, advice, counselling and support services to young people, including support for mental health.

Kooth: XenZone is a provider of online mental health services for children, young people and adults. Kooth, from XenZone, is an online counselling and emotional well-being platform for children and young people, accessible through mobile, tablet and desktop and free at the point of use.

Shout: If children and young people are experiencing a personal crisis, are unable to cope and need support, Shout can help with urgent issues such as:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Abuse or assault
  • Self-harm
  • Bullying
  • Relationship challenges

Text Shout to 85258

Childline: Childline provides a website resource and confidential support line for children and young people under the age of 19 on any issue that they are struggling with, including many that may impact on emotional wellbeing and mental health.  Childline is free, confidential and available any time, day or night. Call 0800 1111.

Further Reading and Resources


Local Services registered with the

NSPCC (2017): CAMHS – Findings from case reviews

UK Gov (2015) Improving mental health services for young people: Report of the work of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Taskforce.

UK Gov (2017) Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision: a Green Paper

UK Gov (2018) Mental health and wellbeing provision in schools: Review of published policies and information

UK Gov (2019) Wellbeing and Mental Health: Applying all our Health