Slovakia, Latvia and Estonia all have more beds than Britain for young people with serious mental health problems, research has found.
The UK ranks 18th out of 28 countries in Europe for the number of hospital beds for treating severe mental health issues in young people.
And it places 21st for the number of psychiatrists available, according to an analysis of official data from across the continent.
It comes amid soaring rates of anxiety, depression, psychosis, self-harm and suicidal thoughts are rising among young people.
The UK is 18th in Europe for the number of inpatient beds available, despite having the largest number of services available to young people
One in ten five to 16-year-olds have a diagnosable mental disorder, but only 70 per cent have had access to treatment at a sufficiently early age.
The study, led by researchers at the University of Warwick, is believed to be the first comprehensive evaluation of children’s mental health services in Europe.
In Britain, there are 9.4 beds per 100,000 suffering from mental health conditions, compared to poorer countries such as Estonia where there are 16.8.
Germany has the most beds at 64 per 100,000, and Sweden has the least with 1.2 beds.
Beds could be for children with a severe eating disorder who need to be fed, or if they are suffering psychosis due to severe depression.
The UK has the largest number of services for children (child and and adolescent mental health services) by far at 939, with Germany second with 537.
Despite this, it is far down in the rankings for the number of specialist psychiatrists, with just 4.5 psychiatrists per 100,000 young people, according to the study.
However, it is far fewer than Finland, which ranked the best with its 36 specialists per 100,000 under-18s.
WHY ARE MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS SOARING?
Mental health problems are a growing public health concern in the UK and around the world.
- At any one time, a sixth of the population in England aged 16 to 64 have a mental health problem, according to statistics body NHS Digital.
- There are around 6,000 suicides in the UK each year and it’s the biggest killer of men up to the age of 49. Men account for 75 per cent of the total figure.
- 10 per cent of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental problem.
The overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years, but figures spanning over decades show some trends.
Mental health charity MIND say it appears that how people cope with mental health problems is getting worse as the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts is increasing.
Economic uncertainty, the influence of social media and expectations of what life should be like have all been suggested as possible causes by experts.
Young people today are more likely to suffer from depression or self-harm, as well as have obesity or sleep disorders. But they drink less, take fewer drugs, and are less likely to be vandals or violent than their elders of just a decade before, a large-scale study by the University College London found.
Warwick Medical School’s Professor Swaran Singh told MailOnline: ‘There is a sheer shortage of specialists in the UK which is a real worry.’
He added: ‘The services are battling each other rather than arguing for more resources all round.
‘We have now reached a stage where we have lowered the number of beds because beds are expensive.
‘But what is really important is the number of psychiatrists which is where the UK do quite poorly.’
Although the UK have a large number of CAHMS, this does not mean the UK spends more money, Professor Singh added.
The findings marks the end of a large five-year project called MILESTONE, which has involved teams in seven countries.
Professor Singh, project coordinator for the MILESTONE project, said: ‘With around a tenth of young people likely to experience mental health issues, it’s a matter of concern that the approach to child mental health varies so dramatically across Europe.
‘Our youth deserve better mental health care than they currently receive.’
Figures show 50 per cent of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75 per cent by age 24, according to the Mental Health Foundation.
During the wait for mental health services, three-quarters of young people see their condition get worse, according charity Young Minds.
A 2018 survey of more than 2,000 parents and carers found young people and their families are often left to ‘fend for themselves’ for months while waiting for help from the NHS.
Even those who receive care for their mental health in their younger years may have difficulty to do so once they reach 18, according to the MILESTONE project.
In the majority of European countries, when service users reach a certain age – 18 in the UK, for example – they are no longer eligible to use children’s services and are instead moved to adult services.
The transition has little clarity, the experts said, and the findings indicate that a large proportion of young people are discharged without guidance on how to continue their support.
They may have to take on the burden of convincing adult services to accept them, experience long waiting times for appointments and repeatedly explain their problems to different services.
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