Children’s Commissioner announces Review of Mental Health Services

19 June 2017 News

Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma, has launched an Independent Review of services and support for children and young people’s mental health in Northern Ireland, following concerns that provision is inadequate and access is unequal.

Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People said,

“After analysing the services and support available for children and young people’s mental health, it remains unclear what the scale of mental health need is among our children and young people, how well services are meeting their needs, where the gaps are and what impact support is having on outcomes.

“The information gathered through this Review will be used to develop recommendations for those responsible for commissioning, planning and delivering mental health services and support. It offers an unprecedented opportunity for children and young people across Northern Ireland to share their experience of getting or trying to get help for their mental health.”

“I urge children and young people aged 11 – 21 along with their parents and carers who have had, or have tried to get help for their mental health, to visit our online survey ( so their experiences are captured and can help shape the future of mental health services”

It is estimated that over 1 in 5 young people in Northern Ireland suffer a significant mental health problem by the time they reach 18[i] and rates of poor mental health are likely to be significantly higher for certain groups of young people such as those who are care experienced, or those who have a long term illness or disability.

Rates of suicide in under 18s are disproportionately higher in Northern Ireland compared to other parts of the UK[ii], the number of under 19s presenting to A&E for self harm has been increasing[iii] and since 2012, there has been a year on year increase of prescribed anti-depressants or anti-anxiety drugs for under 16s[iv].

Koulla continued, “Despite the lack of official data, it is clear the mental health needs of children and young people are increasing, both in terms of scale and complexity and this has led to greater pressure on services.”

“This lack of available data on mental health need, and insufficient monitoring and evaluation of mental health services is one of the key challenges facing our mental health system. For example, we don’t know the scale of poor mental health in under 18s, because that type of data is not collected.”

A central part of the Review is hearing from children and young people who have had, or have tried to get help for their mental health, it will also look at the operational aspects of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health System (CAMHS), such as how services are used and investment.

“Currently only 7.8% of Northern Ireland’s mental health budget is allocated to services for children and young people’s mental health. The Commissioner continued.

“This is well below the UK average (Approx 10%) despite the fact that rates of poor mental health are reported to be 25% higher in NI than in England[v] because of issues like the legacy of the conflict and high rates of poverty.

“The Department for Health and the previous Health Minister have acknowledged that investment in these services needs to increase.”

The Commissioner’s Review aims to assess the adequacy of mental health services and support for children and young people, highlight good practice and identify barriers which prevent them from fully realising their rights to the highest attainable standard of health.


Notes to Editors

  • For more information and to bid for interviews, please contact Patrice Morris, Communications and Engagement Officer on, 028 9031 1616 or mobile – 07917 544 177.
  • The online survey can be found here:
  • See our Mental Health Infographic and you can also view our interactive Infographic here
  • The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People was established in 2003 by the Assembly and Parliament to: “safeguard and promote the rights and best interests of children and young people”.
  • The Commissioner has a duty to ‘keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness of law, practice and  services provided for children and young people by relevant authorities.’

The Review

[i] DHSSPS, 2010;Khan, 2016

[ii] NISRA, 2016, SBNI, 2014. In 2012, the five-year average suicide rate for 15 to 19 year olds was 4 times higher in NI than for England and Wales. For 10 to 14 year olds, rates were 10 times higher

[iii] The NI Self Harm Registry reported in PHA 2015 AND 2016. – rates of self harm in the 15-19 yr old bracket has increased by 30%, with this age range seeing the most pronounced increase (PHA, 2016).  The period 2012 / 13 and 2013/ 14 showed a 14% increase in presentations by under 16’s (PHA, 2015).

[iv] Assembly Written Question 52569/11-16

[v] A vision of a Comprehensive Child and Adult Mental Health Service (CAMHS) –  July 2006.