Children and young people’s mental health — the role of education Contents


1.The education system has a front line role in children and young people’s mental health and well-being. Evidence to this inquiry suggested a growing prevalence of mental ill-health among children and young people, particularly for behavioural and emotional conditions such as anxiety, depression and conduct disorders.1 50% of mental illness in adult life (excluding dementia) starts before age fifteen and 75% has started by age eighteen.2 According to the last ONS prevalence survey, in 2004, around 10% of children between five and sixteen had a clinically diagnosed mental disorder.3 Teachers are often amongst the first to notice if a pupil has mental health issues as well as being the people to whom parents are most likely to turn when they suspect something may be wrong. YoungMinds told us:

Evidence has shown that schools can play a particularly important role in identifying needs that may have been missed at home. Parents also see schools and teachers as the first port of call when raising concerns about their child’s emotional wellbeing and mental health: evidence demonstrates that parents of children with mental disorders are more likely to seek advice or help regarding the disorder from a teacher than any other professional or service.4

2.Addressing the mental health and well-being of children and young people will need to encompass a wide spectrum of action from promoting emotional resilience and well-being for the entire school population to specialist targeted intervention for those with identifiable symptoms of diagnosed mental illness. It involves schools but also Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), which are commissioned under the auspices of NHS England. We look at the general promotion of well-being for children and young people in our next chapter before addressing the interface between the education sector and mental health services. The final chapter looks at how social media impacts on children and young people’s mental health and how that can be managed.

3.This inquiry follows two recent reports on children and young people’s mental health by the Health and Education Committees. Last year the Education Committee reported on the Mental health and well-being of looked-after children and in 2014, the then Health Committee published a report on Children’s and adolescents’ mental health and CAMHS.5

4.Late in 2016 we decided to hold a joint inquiry to look at the area more comprehensively. The unexpected decision to hold an early election has meant that this report is necessarily shorter than we would have hoped, especially given the volume of written evidence that we received and the importance of children and young people’s mental health and education. We hope that our successor Committees will return to this issue in the new Parliament.

5.In January this year, the Government announced its intention to publish a Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health.6 We urge the incoming Government to follow up on that as soon as possible in the new Parliament and, in doing so, to take account of the recommendations of this report.

6.In the course of this inquiry, we heard oral evidence from representatives of both the education and the mental health sectors, including campaigners and practitioners, as well as two Government departments and NHS England.7 We received approximately 240 pieces of written evidence.8 We visited Regent High School in London where we met teachers and mental health professionals from Camden as well as representatives of Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. On our behalf, YoungMinds conducted a survey of children and young people and TES held a web forum with teachers.9 We are very grateful to all those who have contributed, especially those who shared their personal experiences.

1 Institute for Public Policy Research (CMH 192)

2 Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2012, Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays, chapter 10, page 2 [accessed 23 April 2017]

4 YoungMinds (CMH 212) para 2.5

5 Education Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2015–16, Mental health and well-being of looked-after children, HC 481; Health Committee, Third Report of Session 2014–15, Children’s and adolescents’ mental health and CAMHS, HC 342

7 A full list of witnesses is published at the end of this report.

8 A large number of personal submissions were summarised in CMH 237.

9 YoungMinds (CMH 242); TES (CMH 243)

28 April 2017