1 in 10 children have no one to talk to in school when they are worried or sad

10th Oct 2018

More than 1 in 10 children (11%) aged between 10 and 15 say they have no one to talk to or wouldn't talk to anyone in school if they feel worried or sad, according to a new survey commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation.

The survey marks the launch of our new 'Make it Count' campaign to ensure every child in the UK receives an education with mental health at its heart.

The YouGov survey of 1,323 schoolchildren in Britain also determined how feelings of being 'worried or sad' affected their wellbeing and behaviour, finding that: 

  • nearly four in ten (38%) said that it caused them difficulty with going to sleep
  • more than a quarter (27%) said they got into fights or arguments 
  • more than one in four (26%) said that it caused them to struggle to do their homework
  • more than one in four (27%) didn’t want to be around others. 

The campaign is being launched at a time when there is already widespread evidence of a mental health crisis among young people. According to Public Health England, 10% of children and young people in England (aged 5–16) have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem.  

Dr Antonis Kousoulis, Associate Director at the Mental Health Foundation said:

"Our survey provides shocking further evidence of the growing crisis in the mental health of children. Nearly half a million children** in the country have no one to speak to at school when they are experiencing feelings of sadness or worry. That is plainly unacceptable. 

"We believe that many mental health problems are preventable, but for prevention to work for children, changes need to take place in our schools, from primary level upwards. This is why we are campaigning for mental health to have much greater priority in our children's education.  

"We know there are many schools that are doing excellent things in this area, often in difficult circumstances, but this needs to keep improving and be consistent in all schools.  

"If we are not tackling mental health problems early, then we risk failing the next generation right at the start of their lives."

Supporting the campaign, Melinda Messenger, TV Presenter and mum of three said: 

"As a parent of three children, I would feel 100% safer in the knowledge that while they are at school their mental health was treated with the same importance as reading and writing. This is why I am backing the Mental Health Foundation's Make it Count campaign. 

"You put a lot of trust into sending your young people out into the world and under the care of others. School should be the one place where, if something comes up that they need to speak about, there should be someone they feel they can turn to."

Rebecca Harris is an Assistant Head and Sendco at Heathfield Infant and Wilnecote Junior Schools: 

"Our staff have spent a long time researching and considering how to support our pupils' mental health and emotional wellbeing following an increase in anxiety, depression, self-harming and many other alarming symptoms in our children. 

"We created a new system that develops children's resilience and teaches skills in how to handle situations they may encounter. 

"While we acknowledge we still have a long way to go, supporting the mental health of our pupils underpins everything. Schools must collaborate with mental health charities and professionals who can support them in developing our future adults. 

"To that end, we need governmental policy that prioritises emotional wellbeing as a foundation to learning."

How can government and schools help 'Make it Count'? 

  1. Measurement
    Let's help school leaders understand what works by introducing a mental wellbeing measure in schools.

  2. Training
    Let's give teachers the knowledge and confidence to make schools mentally healthy places by guaranteeing at least one day's training a year on learning about children's mental health.
  3. Education
    Let's guarantee all school children a minimum of one hour a week of the new health education curriculum focused on how to stay mentally well and seek help, delivered by well-trained teachers. 
  4. Peer education
    Let's help young people support one another and break down the stigma often associated with mental health by introducing a peer-led mental health programme in every school. 
  5. Expert support
    Let's provide independent counsellors in every school to help give pupils the timely support they need.

Campaign resources

Notes to editors

  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1359 children aged 10 to 15, of which 1,323 were in school. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14th - 26th September 2018.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB children (aged 10-15).
  • *When asked “Which of the following people at your school would you talk to if you felt worried or sad?” 11% said “I don't have anyone to talk to/ wouldn't talk to anyone at school”
  • ** Calculations by Mental Health Foundation, using survey results and ONS population figures.  ONS estimates there are 4,292,784 10 to 15 year olds in Britain.  Of these 97.28% are in school (4,176,020). Of these, 11.4% said they don’t have anyone to talk to/ wouldn’t talk to anyone at school if they felt worried or sad.  This equated to 476,066 children aged 10 to 15.

Statistics about mental health and children and young people

  • 20% of adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any given year.1
  • 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24.2
  • 10% of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental problem3, yet 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.4

About the ‘Make it Count’ campaign

With more and more schoolchildren struggling to cope with their mental health, the Mental Health Foundation has launched a new campaign: ‘Make it Count’. We are campaigning to ensure every child in the UK receives an education with mental health at its heart.

We know there is no one single way for schools to provide such an environment. To make them mentally healthy places for all who attend and work in them, we need to pursue a “whole-school” approach to prevention. Teachers, leadership, the curriculum, children, and access to support all contribute to creating a mentally healthy, nurturing environment for children and young people.  We are calling on the government and schools to address all these elements to deliver effective change.

About World Mental Health Day - 10 October

World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilising efforts in support of mental health. This year the theme is young people and mental health in a changing world.

The day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.


  1. WHO (2003). Caring for children and adolescents with mental disorders: Setting WHO directions. [online] Geneva: World Health Organization. Available at: http://www.who.int/mental_health/media/en/785.pdf (accessed 2 October 2018)
  2.  Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, Jin R, Merikangas KR, Walters EE. (2005). Lifetme Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, Archives of General Psychiatry, 62 (6) pp. 593-602. doi:10.1001/archpsysc.62.6.593.
  3. Department of Health and the Scottish Executive. (2005). Mental health of children and young people in Great Britain, 2004. Retrieved from: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/mental-health-of-children-and-young-people-in-great-britain/mental-health-of-children-and-young-people-in-great-britain-2004 (accessed 2 Oct 2018)
  4. Children’s Society (2008) The Good Childhood Inquiry: health research evidence. London: Children’s Society.
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