According to The Children’s Society, in the last three years, the likelihood of young people in the UK having a mental health problem has increased by 50%. In a classroom of 30 children, five are likely to have a mental health problem.

In 2019-20, only 391,940 children in England received treatment for problems with their mental health – just a quarter of the more than £1.5 million children estimated to need treatment. Those children who did access services often had to wait weeks or months for treatment, and only 20% of children referred to services started treatment within four weeks. 

Father and son on the sofa holding hands

Addressing this gap in support for children and young people 

The Mental Health Implementation Network aims to address this gap in treatment and services by supporting interventions designed to increase access to a range of psychological therapies for children and young people.  

The project will build on the approach developed by the NHS’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme. Since it began in 2008, this IAPT programme has transformed the treatment of adult anxiety disorders and depression in England – providing millions of adults with access to talking therapies to help overcome their depression and anxiety. 

IAPT-style interventions could help to meet the needs of children experiencing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) – such as neglect, poverty, losing a parent, or living with a parent with severe mental illness – and children living with their own mental health difficulties. Access to therapies can help to identify children experiencing difficulties, refer them for treatment if needed, and provide a range of support through interventions delivered at school.  

Interventions delivered in school to support mental health have been shown to help build resilience and wellbeing in children, address problem behaviours, and support positive family relationships. These interventions usually include a combination of interactive educational and psychosocial-based activities delivered by teachers at a low-cost.

Aim of this project

The aim of this MHIN project is to expand access to mental health care for children and young people using IAPT-style services, especially by increasing available support in schools.

In expanding the availability of IAPT-style services, we aim to:

  • Improve the resilience and wellbeing of children and young people
  • Reduce behaviour problems in children and young people
  • Identify children and families who need tailored support 
  • Reduce waiting times for children and young people from referral to treatment.

Selecting interventions for scale up    

The implementation and scale up of interventions addressing this NHS priority builds on the national transformation programme, which is already underway and is backed by NICE guidelines

Interventions will be co-designed and finalised in the next phase of the MHIN. They will be co-developed and designed with clinicians, Academic Health Science Network (AHSNs) and MHIN colleagues, research project leads, participating ARCs, experts by experience, charities and third sector organisations. 

Research outputs

  • Read how MHIN-supported research shows an online programme empowering parents to use CBT to treat child anxiety is as effective as in-person therapy, but also more accessible and scalable.

Find out more

  • In March 2024, the MHIN team held a webinar on findings from the first phase of this project: improving child and young person mental health through parent-led CBT. Find out more and watch a recording

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