Best Practice

Anxiety and depression: When should we intervene?

An estimated one in 10 teenagers have mental health problems and there is a high prevalence of anxiety and depression. In this five-article series, Dr Stephanie Thornton advises schools and teachers. In part three, she asks when are these conditions severe enough to warrant treatment or intervention

It is widely believed that anxiety and depression are increasingly common in our teenagers. Exactly how frequent these problems are in UK schools is hard to say: there has been no large-scale survey since 2004.

However, what we do know for sure is that at least 1 in 10 teenagers suffer some sort of mental health problem, and that the most common mental health problems are anxiety and depression (Beesdo et al, 2009), which may affect as many as one in six teenagers. Girls are more likely to suffer than boys (Craske et al, 2003).

And NHS figures show that 12.8 per cent – roughly one in eight – five to 19-year-olds had at least one mental health disorder when assessed in 2017. This figure rises to 16.9 per cent of 17 to 19-year-olds. Furthermore, of these, emotional disorders were the most common, affecting 8.1 per cent of five to 19-year-olds in 2017. And of these, anxiety-related disorders were the most common – 7.2 per cent (see SecEd, 2018a).

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