Children need information about their mental health which they can trust, is accessible and part of everyday life - survey

02 October 2015

Children’s Commissioner calls for young people’s mental health websites to carry a ‘health warning’ as most look online for information

More help and counselling should be provided in schools and youth clubs to help children with mental health concerns

Young people want trustworthy information about mental health issues and also more accessible drop-in mental health support in schools and youth clubs according to a survey published today by the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield. 

The majority of children and young people look to the internet for information about mental health issues so websites which provide advice should carry a ‘health warning’ with a kite mark guaranteeing quality to ensure  young people can choose the best advice possible.

Everyone has a mental health, the research into where young people go for mental health information, advice and support was carried out by Amplify, the Children’s Commissioner’s young advisory group. It found that 66% of young people use specialist websites for information; 62% do a general internet search; 24% use online fora; 18% social networking sites; and 17%, an app. It also found that young people are more likely to seek help about mental health issues from a friend (50%) than a parent (43%), mental health professional (40%) or doctor (40%). Only 18% would turn to their school nurse.

On the basis of the survey, Anne Longfield, recommends that:

  • a ‘kite mark’ system should be developed showing that online mental health information for children has been quality assured
  • organisations should involve children in developing mental health resources in order to make sure they are useful and engaging
  • children should be equipped with the knowledge of where they can go for trustworthy information or help for themselves and also, how they can signpost or refer friends to sources of advice
  • professionals who can provide mental health support should be more accessible to children, for example, school nurses could provide more advice and there could be live advice in online spaces which children use such as discussion fora
  • drop-in support for young people should be located in schools or youth clubs and young people should be able to use them without parental consent
  • schools should promote awareness of and challenge stigma attached mental health conditions in lessons such as Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE)
  • there should be one national online directory that young people can use to find out what services are available to them.

Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England said: “We must move children's mental health support into the 21st century making sure that young people can get good advice online and early help in schools and youth clubs where they spend their time.

“There are growing concerns about increasing rates of anxiety and self-harm and the numbers attending accident and emergency departments with mental health problems have gone up exponentially in recent years.

“Young people say they need information they can trust on the internet and drop-in support which is accessible, non-stigmatised and part of everyday life.  Services such as clinics in youth centres and schools and school nurses are ideally placed to help provide this.

“We must commit to providing them the support they need to thrive.”

The Commissioner’s call comes as children return to school after the summer break, which is often a stressful time, particularly for those moving to new schools or colleges, or who are entering an exam year.


About mental health and ‘Everyone has a mental health

  • 526 young people in England aged 11to 25 years completed the survey between December 2014 and January 2015.
  • The online questionnaire was developed and promoted by Amplify, the Children’s Commissioner’s young people’s advisory group.
  • One in ten children between the ages of one and 15 has a mental health disorder. (Office for National Statistics Mental health in children and young people in Great Britain, 2005)
  • Around 20% of children have a mental health problem in any given year, and about 10% at any one time. (Lifetime Impacts: Childhood and Adolescent Mental Health, Understanding The Lifetime Impacts, Mental Health Foundation, 2005)
  • As children reach adolescence rates of mental health problems increase. Disorders affect 10.4% of boys aged 5-10, rising to 12.8% of boys aged 11-15, and 5.9% of girls aged 5-10, rising to 9.65% of girls aged 11-15. (Mental Disorder More Common In Boys, National Statistics Online, 2004)


About the Children’s Commissioner

  • Anne Longfield took up the post of Children’s Commissioner for England on 1 March 2015. Her role was established under the Children Act 2004 and strengthened by the Children and Families Act 2014.
  • The Commissioner has responsibility in law for promoting and protecting children’s rights in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  This includes listening to what children and young people say about things that affect them and encouraging adults making decisions to always take their views and interests into account.
  • The Acts which frame the Commissioner’s work make her responsible for working on behalf of all children in England and in particular, those whose voices are least likely to be heard. She is expected to have a particular focus on the rights of children in the new section 8A of the Children Act 2004, or other groups of children who she considers are at particular risk of having their rights infringed. This includes those who are in or leaving care or living away from home, and those receiving social care services.
  • The law says that the Commissioner must represent children in parts of the UK outside England on issues that are not-devolved to the Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These include immigration, for the whole of the UK, and youth justice, for England and Wales.
  • The post of Children’s Commissioner was created following a recommendation in the Inquiry into Victoria Climbié’s death and requests from a number of children’s sector charities to do so.  The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommends that countries should ideally have an individual such as a Children's Commissioner or Ombudsman responsible for children's rights.

Media contact: Simon Larson or 020 7783 8269