Children seeking mental health advice on internet

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education and social affairs reporter

Unhappy girlImage source, Science Photo Library
Image caption,
The rates of children attending A&E with anxiety or self-harm have grown

Children in England are turning to the internet for advice on mental health instead of talking to their school nurse or GP, it is claimed.

Children's Commissioner for England Anne Longfield says children do not have the confidence to go to the doctor with mental health issues.

A small survey of youngsters suggests 62% have done a general internet search on issues such as depression.

The government said it was promoting greater use of counsellors in schools.


Ms Longfield said: "Every child knows if they are unwell with a stomach ache or hurt their leg, they go to the doctor or school nurse.

"Unfortunately they don't have that confidence when it comes to mental health. It is a rather desperate state of affairs when they would prefer to roam around the internet or ask a friend the same age for help first.

"GPs really need to think seriously about this and ask if they are doing enough.

"Should they have a GP in every practice who is a specialist in children's mental health, for example?

"Should they be advertising the fact that they are in a position to help within their surgeries?"

She added that while there were some good websites, it was really a "matter of luck" whether children found them.

'£1.25bn investment'

Ms Longfield said: "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."

A government spokesman said: "We are supporting better links between mental health services and schools, ensuring children can thrive both inside and outside the classroom.

"Improving children's mental health is a priority for this government and that's why we're investing £1.25bn in young people's mental health over the next five years."

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