Children make up nearly a quarter of people receiving NHS help for mental health problems in Colchester, figures reveal.

New NHS Digital data shows 8,405 people – four per cent of Colchester’s population – were seen by mental health services in 2018-19. Of these, 1,845 were under 18.

This means five per cent of children in the area were in contact with mental health services, in line with the average across England.

Data for the Tendring area shows 8,055 people – six per cent of the area’s population – were seen during the same period. Of these, 1,580 were under 18.

The Association of Child Psychotherapists warned child mental health services face a crisis due to underfunding.

Organisations including Action for Children, Barnardo’s, the NSPCC and the Children’s Society say youngsters are being “crowded out” of discussions on the nation’s future.

Their open letter to politicians urges party leaders to prioritise combatting problems children face.

James McQuiggan, chief executive at Mid and North East Essex Mind, based in Colchester, said: “We are seeing an increasing demand for services offering support to young people. Young people getting timely support is crucial to improve their immediate wellbeing and ensuring they do not experience long-term mental health problems into adulthood.

“The most common problems are worry, low mood and anger, we are also seeing an increased demand for services to support young people with autism.

“We are hearing from parents there can be a long wait for support services.

“We are particularly proud to be delivering subsidised counselling through schools and offering wellbeing and employment support to 16 to 19 year olds with autism.”

One in eight children and young people aged between five and 19-years-old have at least one mental health condition, according to the charities.

Services which vulnerable children rely on are facing a funding crisis while demand continues to rise.

The Children’s Commissioner for England estimates it will cost £10 billion “to fix the safety net”.