One in five children are being turned away from mental health services, a children’s charity has found.
Despite being referred for treatment, more than a fifth of children sent to the NHS for mental health help were rejected.
Following publication of a report, the NSPCC has warned that serious long-term mental health problems could develop in those who are not getting the help they need earlier on.
The charity also said there could be a “time bomb” of serious mental health conditions.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “If children don’t receive the right kind of help and support following a disclosure, the damage can last a lifetime and include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or suicidal thoughts in adulthood.”
Figures from 35 mental health trusts in England have shown that 186,453 cases were referred to them by family doctors and other professionals.
Of these, 39,652 did not receive any help.
The NSPCC also found that abused and neglected children were often denied treatment because their cases did not meet the “high clinical threshold” required by the child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
Those with problems associated with abuse or neglect were automatically referred to CAMHS – with one in six cases rejected.
Mr Wanless added: ““Child and adolescent mental health services are just one part of the jigsaw and it’s clear the current range of support available does not meet the needs of many abused and neglected children.
“Often children who are suffering with the consequences of what’s been done to them won’t necessarily meet a medical threshold but the emotional and psychological fallout of their abuse can snowball and get more severe in years to come.”
Almost 100 calls were made per week in 2014 to the NSPCC’s ChildLine service from children who had suffered mentally because of abuse.