The number of children and young people experiencing poor mental health and emotional distress has rocketed during the past two years, according to Wellspring Therapy & Training, the leading Harrogate-based counselling service.

The demand for Wellspring’s services from children and young people aged between four and 18 has never been higher, according to Emily Fullarton, Wellspring’s executive director.

“There are a number of reasons, some interlinked, for this increase in demand. The pandemic is one, of course, as is the relentless pressure of social media and exams. The cost-of-living crisis has meant that many families are struggling to make ends meet and this has a knock-on effect on family dynamics and the atmosphere at home,” explained Emily.

The well-respected charity, which was founded in 2003, provides affordable short and long-term counselling, on a pay-as-you-can-basis, for the Harrogate and district community.

Emily continued: “The number of children and young people who need help with their mental health is reaching near epidemic proportions. National Mental Health charity Young Minds reported that only 1 in 3 children with a diagnosable mental health condition receive treatment and care from the NHS.

“If this was the case for child cancer treatment there would be outrage. As suicide is the leading cause of death after cancer and accidental injury in children and young people, we should be taking this statistic far more seriously. As it is, there is widespread concern, but there are no easy answers. We must all do the best we can.

“Many children and young people are experiencing abuse, neglect, bereavement, family relationship breakdown, bullying from peers or a sudden change in life circumstances. For others there may not be a specific event but a need to develop emotional resilience and a stronger sense of self-worth.

“Through counselling, children and young people can re-gain trust in people, have a greater sense of themselves and their identity, develop and improve their confidence, self-esteem, resilience, emotional wellbeing and reduce feelings of anxiety, distress, isolation and loneliness.

“In the UK, according to the NHS, 1 in 6 children aged 5 to 16 were identified as having a probable mental health problem in July 2021, a huge increase from 1 in 9 in 2017. The situation has got worse since then.”

This has been a very special year for Wellspring, which is based in St Andrew’s Vicarage in Starbeck, as the charity celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Emily commented: “We are proud of how a small local charity has survived and thrived during the past 20 years and how we have tackled the problem of increasing poor mental health, anxiety and depression, which has threatened to overwhelm the NHS. We are proud of what we have achieved and look forward to building on this during the next 20 years.

She continued: “There are major challenges ahead. Unfortunately, we have been unable to grow the number of counselling sessions we offer due to a lack of suitability qualified people looking for placements and work. This, alongside the lack of funding available for these services, has led to a stagnation in the growth of our service and a massive gap in the provision of services to children and young people.

“We have noticed that other local organisations have also struggled to fill vacant posts, believing this is partly due to local Universities no longer offering a course in counselling children and young people.”

“Therefore, we will aim to provide a solution. In 2024 we are delighted to be launching a professional training course to train more counsellors to work with children and young people. This course will not only upskill the local workforce but through placements at Wellspring, double the number of affordable counselling sessions we can offer to children and young people.”

For more information on this course please visit our website:

Young Person’s Case Study
I started counselling because I wasn’t coping. My mood was very up and down and I often felt out of control, which was hard for me and the people around me. It sometimes led me to cutting myself just to cope and feel in control.

Through the counselling my view changed and I realised that stuff is not always such a big deal. I found ways to be calm and cope with stuff like my lessons at school. I can concentrate better. I am no longer self-harming and having less panic attacks. My counsellor listened to me and we had a good relationship. It was especially helpful when they spoke to my parents and me together as it helped sort out some difficulties and helped them understand me more. Which has made my life better.