Intended for healthcare professionals


Adolescent mental health in crisis

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 19 June 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2608
  1. David Gunnell, professor12,
  2. Judi Kidger, lecturer in public health1,
  3. Hamish Elvidge, chair3
  1. 1Department of Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  2. 2National Institute of Health Research Biomedical Research Centre at the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  3. 3The Matthew Elvidge Trust, Hartley Wintney, UK
  1. Correspondence to: D Gunnell d.j.gunnell{at}

We need to understand the causes to inform prevention

Universities UK recently reported a fivefold increase in the number of students disclosing mental health conditions since 2007 (from 9675 in 2007-8 to 57 305 in 2017-18) and growing pressures on student mental health services, despite only a modest rise in student numbers.1 A growing number of UK and international studies show that affective disorders in young people are rising substantially, particularly among girls and young women.2 A recent UK analysis reported a 68% increase in hospital self harm presentations in 13-16 year old girls between 2011 (45.9 per 100 000) and 2014 (76.9 per 100 000).3

Causes of the escalation are uncertain. Some studies point to a rise in presentation and diagnosis rather than a true increase in incidence.4 More people self reporting problems may partly reflect greater willingness to share feelings, such as suicidal thoughts, due to better mental health literacy. If the situation reflects a real deterioration in the mental health of young people, there are several possible explanations.

The young people affected are “generation Z,” born in the mid 1990s and early …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription