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Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Mental health disorders, including depression, are often first reported during adolescence. Conditions that arise in the teenage years of adolescence often have implications for present and future health and development. Based on data from NHS Digital collected in 2017, 2.1% of children and young people aged 5–19 in England experienced a depressive episode at one single point in time. Depression was more prevalent amongst older adolescents and girls.

A diagnosis of depression in young people includes identifying the core symptoms of low or irritable mood, and loss of interest and/or pleasure. Other symptoms may include: fatigue; suicidal thoughts; sleep disturbances; difficulties with concentration or decision making; changes in appetite or weight; feeling slowed down or agitated; and feeling worthless or excessively guilty.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) updated its recommendations in June 2019 for the recognition, assessment and treatment of depression in young people. Recommendations for research included gathering further evidence for the clinical and cost effectiveness of currently recommended treatments, as well as for other treatments with a limited evidence base.

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 placed a duty on the Government to achieve parity of esteem between physical and mental health, including improving mental health for children and young people. The 2015–17 Conservative Government announced new funding for mental health and a commitment to implementing the recommendations made in The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, published in 2016. In December 2017, the Department of Health and the Department for Education published a green paper on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision. In July 2018, the Government published its response to this consultation and committed to take forward all proposals made in the green paper. In January 2019, the NHS Long-term Plan made a renewed commitment towards child and adolescent mental health provision. In October 2019, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and UK Research and Innovation announced funding from the Government’s Strategic Priorities Fund for a £35 million programme to support new research to improve treatment for adolescent mental health. This aimed to “build a better understanding of the adolescent mind” to improve the standards of care available. Following the 2019 general election, the Government reiterated the Conservative Party manifesto commitment to legislate so that “patients suffering from mental health conditions, including anxiety or depression, have greater control over their treatment and receive the dignity and respect they deserve”.


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