Almost 1.5 million people aged 18 and under were referred for mental health support in 2022, according to a youth mental health charity.
According to YoungMinds’ analysis of data from NHS Digital, there were 1,425,193 referrals last year, a rise of 76% since 2019. The charity also said it is the second consecutive year that referrals have topped one million.
Laura Bunt, chief executive of YoungMinds, said: "Every day without action is another day thousands of young people are without the mental health support they need. Behind every number is a young person facing impossible challenges."
In April 2022, the Government made a call for evidence for a new 10-year mental health plan.
As part of the call, 13,887 people under the age of 25 completed a YoungMinds survey and the answers were shared anonymously with the Government. Ms Blunt said those who responded made it "loud and clear what change was needed".
However, the plan was shelved in favour of the Major Conditions Strategy, which grouped mental illness together with the likes of cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. The call for evidence for the new strategy ends on Tuesday. In response, YoungMinds and a group of young people will take two vans to Westminster displaying messages from some of the people who responded to the initial call over the 10-year mental health plan.
'Still Waiting' for Government Response
Ms Blunt added: "Twelve months on, as the situation worsens, we are still waiting. The Government had an opportunity to hear from young people and take action that could transform the system, but all we’ve seen is delay.
"The Government must listen to young people and commit to action that drives down numbers of young people needing support, prioritises early intervention, and properly funds mental health services," she said.
Tom Madders, director of communications and campaigns at YoungMinds, said: "This explosion in referral numbers has led to wait times being as long as 2 years in parts of the country.
"One of the biggest barriers for getting wait times down is the lack of staff and young people are paying the price for a total absence of workforce planning over the past few years."
On Sunday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the NHS Workforce Plan, a 15-year blueprint outlining how the NHS will retain and recruit staff, will be published this week.
Mr Madders added: "Any new plan for the NHS workforce needs to include significant measures to increase the numbers of mental health specialists we have working in children and young people's mental health services."