In recent years, there has been a growing policy focus on children’s mental health. The government has repeatedly stated its commitment to improving access to specialist mental health services. At the same time, there is widespread concern that staff at schools and colleges lack the resources and skills to help improve pupils’ emotional wellbeing.1 Demand for specialist services is growing with recent evidence that child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are, on average, turning away nearly a quarter of children referred to them for treatment by concerned parents, GPs, teachers and others. Half of all cases of adult mental illness start by the age of 143 , meaning prevention and early support for children is vital.
This briefing paper summarises the prevalence of mental health problems among children taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), which is a representative group of children born in the UK at the start of this century. The report explores the prevalence of poor mental health amongst these children based on surveys of their parents at ages 3, 5, 7 and 14. It then examines in more detail, including by gender, income and ethnicity, the data on depressive symptoms reported by 14-year-olds themselves in the latest survey. The report also compares 14-year-olds’ perceptions of their mental ill-health with their parents’ perceptions.