Thousands of young people 'attempt suicide' while waiting for help

Hundreds of children and young people have been waiting for several months for mental health care.

Thousands of young people ‘attempt suicide while waiting for NHS mental health treatment’ Getty Images

Thousands of young people have tried to take their own life while enduring long waits for mental health treatment, a charity has warned.

New research from YoungMinds on almost 14,000 young people across the UK found that 26% had attempted suicide as a result of having to wait for help.

In Scotland, hundreds of children and young people have been waiting for over two years to access mental health care.

The Scottish Government’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) target is to see 90% of youngsters within 18 weeks of referral, however wait times have regularly been over this amount of time.

Responding to criticism over CAMHS wait times, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the waits were unacceptable but mental health services had been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the research YoungMinds asked children and young people aged 25 and under for their views on accessing help.

More than four in 10 (44%) said they had waited more than a month for mental health support after seeking it and 9% said they were turned away.

More than half (58%) also said their mental health got worse while they were waiting for help.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has warned of record waiting lists for help, including for children with eating disorders, saying services are at “crisis point”.

The poll for YoungMinds also found 37% of young people did not feel supported by their GP when they tried to access mental health support or advice.

More than two-thirds (71%) had problems with their relationships with family and friends as a result of having to wait for treatment.

Emma Thomas, chief executive of YoungMinds, said: “These numbers paint a shocking picture of the situation young people in this country face when it comes to their mental health.

“We have also seen this reflected in calls to our parents’ helpline, with an increasing number of people saying their child has attempted to take their own life and still isn’t receiving the right care.

“For years, politicians have promised that they will get a grip of the situation, including a recent commitment to a 10-year plan.

“But the reality is that with every month of inaction, things are getting rapidly worse for young people.”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.

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