This article was contributed by YoungMinds

YoungMinds is the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people. It is leading the fight for a future where all young minds are supported and empowered, whatever the challenges.

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Mental health and young people: the background

Good mental health

Photo: Antoine Gady 

What does good mental health look like when it comes to young people? Parent Info offers insight for parents from YoungMinds

What is mental health?

Mental health affects all aspects of a child’s development. That means their ability to understand and process information, how well they get on with others and how happy they feel.

What does good mental health look like for young people?

  • Able to enjoy personal relationships (satisfying for themselves and others.)
  • A sense of psychological growth (the world becoming less bewildering.)
  • An ability to play and to learn. 
  • A developing moral sense of right and wrong.
  • The capacity to cope with a degree of distress.
  • A clear sense of identity and self-worth.

How many children are affected by mental health problems?

The most recent statistics suggest that:

  • One in 10 children and young people aged 5-16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder: that's around three children in every class.
  • Between one in 12 and one in 15 children and young people deliberately self-harm.
  • There has been a big increase in the number of young people being admitted to hospital because of self harm. Over the last ten years this figure has increased by 68%.
  •  Nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression.
  • Over 8,000 children aged under 10 years old suffer from severe depression.
  • The proportion of young people aged 15-16 with a conduct disorder more than doubled between 1974 and 1999. 

Why is mental health important?

With good mental health, children and young people do better in every way. They are happier in their families, are able to learn better, do better at school, and enjoy friendships and new experiences. Childhood and teenage years are when mental health is developed and patterns are set for the future. So a child with good mental health is much more likely to have good mental health as an adult, and to be able to take on adult responsibilities and fulfil their potential.

Where can I find information about children and young people’s mental health?

The YoungMinds website has a section especially written for parents with lots of information about mental health and wellbeing.  You can find out more about different conditions, how to support children with mental health problems and how to look after yourself. 


What should I do if I am worried about the mental health or wellbeing of a child?

The YoungMinds Parents’ Helpline offers free confidential online and telephone support, including information and advice, to any adult worried about the emotional problems, behaviour or mental health of a child or young person up to the age of 25. Call us Monday to Friday 9.30am-4pm on 0808 802 5544. Free to mobiles and landlines.

Further reading

Fighting the stigma of mental health: a parent’s guide

The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or NCA-CEOP.

Updated: ​May 2018

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