Thousands of parents turn to mental health charity for help supporting their child

The most common reasons parents ask for help are related to their child’s anxiety, depression, behaviour and autism

4th January 2024 about a 4 minute read
“Across the country, more young people than ever are struggling with their mental health, with record numbers in crisis and in need of urgent support. This is a youth mental health emergency which will continue to escalate without preventative action." Laura Bunt, chief executive, Young Minds

Thousands of parents whose children are experiencing poor mental health are turning to the charity Young Minds for help, according to new figures released by the charity.

Figures from Young Minds show that 13,228 people contacted the charity’s parent helpline from January 1 to December 8 2023, while an extra 2,829 parents and carers needed urgent crisis support, such as help for a child feeling suicidal.

The number of people contacting the helpline is up slightly on pre-pandemic figures. In 2019, 12,027 parents called the line. The main topics parents have needed help with over the last year are their child’s anxiety, anger, depression and low mood, behaviour and autism.

If the parent is seeking crisis support, the helpline advisers normally tell them to call 999 or to go to A&E, while others will be directed to 24-hour mental health services in their area or other charities such as the Samaritans.

Parents are struggling to find support

Laura Bunt, chief executive of Young Minds, said: “Every day, our parent helpline receives calls from people struggling to find support for young people who need help with their mental health. These are often young people with multiple mental health conditions.

“Many can’t find the help they need in their community, while others face months waiting for support while becoming more ill. Other young people are turned away from services because they’re told they’re not ill enough.

“So much of what we hear speaks of a system that is struggling to cope.

“Across the country, more young people than ever are struggling with their mental health, with record numbers in crisis and in need of urgent support. This is a youth mental health emergency which will continue to escalate without preventative action.

“We know professionals, from the NHS to school classrooms, are doing all they can, but we need more than sticking-plaster solutions.

“Every young person should be able to access the mental health support they need, when they need it. The government must commit to providing early support hubs in every community for young people to get help and reduce waiting times.”

Parents urged to talk to their children

Stevie Goulding, senior manager for parents and carers services at Young Minds, said it was sometimes hard to know when to be worried about a child’s mental health.

“Young people are adapting to lots of changes as they grow up, so it’s normal for them to express raw emotions and change moods quickly,” she said.

“But if your child is consistently struggling, for example if you see a sustained change in their behaviour, sleeping or eating patterns, or if they seem to be upset over a long period of time, it’s important to take it seriously.

“You know your child better than anybody else. It’s important to act on the warning signs if you start to feel concerned.”

The charity urges parents to talk to their children but if things do not seem to be improving, they are encouraged to speak to their GP.

Goulding said: “Every case is different, but we advise parents who are trying to get support for a child to be persistent and to be as clear as possible when dealing with professionals.

“Write a summary in bullet points outlining your child’s symptoms and behaviour, the time frames including when the problems began and at what point they escalated, the impact on the child and wider family and clarifying any risk or urgency.”

If children are already on a waiting list, the charity advises parents to tell school as well as maintaining hobbies, routines and normal parenting to help keep the child grounded and feeling safe.

FCC Insight

NHS figures show that the number of young people experiencing mental health problems has increased in recent years. This is a particular concern for parents, who often feel they have nowhere to turn. In these circumstances, charity helplines, such as that provided by Young Minds, perform a valuable service. It is clear, however, that more support needs to be made available both for parents and for the children themselves. We believe it is important to equip children with the tools they need to protect their own mental health, which could include digital apps for managing anxiety and low mood. Parents too could benefit from short courses or digital advice on how best to support their struggling child.