Mental health overview

Good mental health starts in childhood.

With 75% of adult mental health problems starting before someone is 18[1], we work hard to make a positive impact on the mental health of children and young people.

We make lifelong improvements to the mental health of disadvantaged children.

From individual intensive one-to-one support and counselling, to group work and practical confidence building activities, we tailor our support to help each young person face their individual challenges. 

little girl playing

We measure the impact of our targeted work

Using our unique system, e-Aspire, we track the impact of our work on the children and young people who need us, including over 35,000 children and young people in 2016/2017. We share progress and know what works and what doesn't. Our analysis shows that 71% of children and young people improved their mental health in 2016/2017 becoming more confident, accepted and having greater self-esteem.[2]

Our work means these young people build mental resilience. They're more able to make positive choices as they grow up and:

  • Develop positive relationships with friends and family
  • Have improved lifestyles and better personal safety. For example we help young parents with parenting and young people build life skills and manage accommodation
  • Start to enjoy learning and gain positive experiences in school or other education, training or employment opportunities
  • Build their own support networks and strengthening communication skills

We make sure those most in need are not just labelled as difficult and ignored.

All children face worries growing up, from social media pressure to anxiety about exams, but many we work with face tougher challenges. They’re coping with family breakdown; living in, or exiting care; or they experience the impact of poor parental health, substance abuse or living with disabilities.

In the UK, 850,000 children have mental health problems. While nationally that’s 1 in 10 children,[3] our analysis shows that almost 3 in 10 children we work with in a targeted way have emotional or mental health needs. This peaks at almost 5 in 10 for 14 year olds.[4]


These children aren't getting what would be considered basic support to build the mental resilience they need to cope with everyday challenges. Basics like someone to talk to or give you a hug when you’ve had a tough day, someone to help you with your homework or to help you build life skills like managing money, looking after a home or finding and keeping a job.

Unaddressed, poor mental health can lead to poor physical health and low educational attainment. It can lead to drug and alcohol misuse, self-harming, teenage pregnancy and a shortened adult life of anxiety and depression.

Relationship building is central to mental health and central to all our work.


When children are young, we help them by working with parents and carers with the specific aim of building the young person’s mental resilience to meet the ordinary demands of everyday life.

This could be helping establish family routines to supporting a young person improve their communication with their family or helping a child make friends. As a result, 76% improve their social skills and friendships.[2]

Find out more about how we support mental health for young children via stronger parenting, with young people and for those living with disabilities.

Download our Impact Report card: Mental Health

[1] Future in Mind – DoH & NHS England 2015

[2] Improvement data from Action for Children's e-Aspire analysis of 24,243 children and young people (April 2015 - March 2017)

[3] Green H, McGinnity A,Meltzer, Fort T, Goodman R (2005). Mental health of children and young people in Great Britain, 2004. Survey carried out by the Office of National Statistics on behalf other the Department of Health and the Scottish Executive. Basingstock: Palgrame Macmillan.

[4] Action for Children e-Aspire analysis of 35,698 children and young people (April 2015 - March 2017)