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Youth Mental Health: New Economic Evidence

This report examines the economic challenges of youth mental health problems in England. The main focus is on adolescents and young adults. We summarise findings from a review of the international evidence on the economic impact of youth mental health services, an analysis of the economic implications of youth mental health problems – including the failure to recognise or treat them – and an evaluation of two models of youth mental health service provision in England. We make a
number of recommendations.

This is the first study of the economic impact of youth mental health services in the UK.

Mental health issues account for a significant proportion of the burden of ill-health experienced by young people in the UK:

  • Approximately 1 in 10 children and young people have a diagnosed mental health problem.
  • However, mental health issues are more likely to be missed in young people than in any other age-group.

The period of adolescence and early adulthood is one in which individuals are highly susceptible to the development of mental health issues:

  • 75% of mental illness in adult life (excluding dementia) starts during adolescence
  • Existing mental health issues often become more complex during adolescence

Adolescence is the period when reluctance to use mental health services is at its peak and when there are complex transitions to manage from child and adolescent to adult services. The result is that many young people in need do not receive any clinical intervention.

Unidentified and untreated mental health issues at this stage in life can have devastating and costly consequences:

  • worse physical health in both the short-term and long-term
  • poorer health behaviours: in particular misuse of alcohol, smoking, and substance use
  • poor social, educational and employment outcomes.

Recent UK government reports and policy documents recognise deficiencies in the way that services respond to the mental health needs of young people, particularly those who are most vulnerable.

The Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Task Force was set up in September 2014 by the Government in response to growing awareness and concerns about what was perceived as a growing crisis in the delivery of care to young people.

One possible solution to improving access, engagement and acceptability is age-appropriate, youth-specific mental health services.

There are few data on youth mental health services, particularly economic data, with the exception of psychosis services, a few of which are youthspecific. our report focuses mainly on non-psychosis mental illness and services for the 12 to 25 age group.