A charity is calling for mental health education to form part of the national curriculum and for schools to provide access to counselling and mentor support for all young people who need it.
MindFull, part of the BB Group, conducted a YouGov survey of 2,000 young people which found that nearly two thirds thought education in schools and training teachers would help to tackle the problem.
The findings were published in Alone with my thoughts, a report which also said that one in five surveyed have symptoms of depression, and almost a third (32%) have thought about or attempted suicide before they were 16.
The survey also found that nearly a third (29%) have self-harmed because they feel ‘down’.
More than half (52%) of those who had shown signs of depression as children felt let down by their experiences of mental health support. On average, those children who showed symptoms of depression and talked to more than one person, ended up speaking to people 22 times before they got help and almost half (47%) of young people with depression never got the help they wanted.
Emma-Jane Cross, CEO and founder of MindFull, part of the BB Group, said: “Too many children who try to speak out about the way they’re feeling are being let down or simply ignored. It’s unacceptable that so many are having to resort to harming themselves on purpose in order to cope, or worse still are thinking about ending their own lives.
“Early intervention is proven to help prevent adult mental health problems, so swift action must be taken now if we are to avoid a legacy of serious long-term mental illness."
In a new free online service MindFull will give children and teenagers the support of mental health professionals and enable them to mentor one another in a safe space. The charity will also educate young people about how to cope with mental health issues – providing information, advice and guidance, both online and through training in schools.
The survey shows that more than a third (39%) of children said they had found it hard to leave the house because they felt down, and almost 1 in 5 (18%) young people say they have felt constantly on edge in the last two weeks.
Professor Tanya Byron, patron of The BB Group and a chartered clinical psychologist said: "Just as we look after our children’s physical health, it’s vital that we also offer support for their mental wellbeing. Teenagers naturally look to the internet as a source of information and advice, so that’s where we need to be in order to help the hundreds of thousands of young people who are currently getting no support.”