Britain has one of the lowest numbers of hospital beds in Europe for young people suffering from serious mental health problems, according to EU research.
It is far behind the level of provision in many much poorer Eastern European countries such as Latvia, Estonia and Slovakia, according to a study on the problems of minors under 18 across the EU.
Britain has 9.4 specialized inpatient beds per 100,000 young people for those suffering from conditions such as anxiety, depression, psychosis, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. This puts it in 18th place in a list of the 28 EU countries, say researchers.
Germany has the largest number, with 64 beds per 100,000 young people, and Sweden has the smallest, with only 1.2 beds. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have 39.5, 31.5 and 21 beds per 100,000 children under the age of 18.
The UK is even lower on the EU rating table for the number of psychiatrists specializing in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). With only 4.5 psychiatrists per 100,000 young people, it comes in 21st place. That is far less than Finland, which has more, with 36 experts per 100,000 under 18.
In this sense, Britain is again behind a series of Eastern European countries, such as Estonia (16.8), Lithuania (14) and Latvia (11.2). Bulgaria, the country with the smallest number, has only 1.9 psychiatrists for every 100,000 children and young people.
Experts warned that low UK rankings meant that young people under the age of 18 were not getting the care they needed.
"Our youth deserve more than what they currently receive. Despite being the sixth richest country in the world, and with a health service that is said to be the "envy of the world" when it comes to mental health provision for children and young people, the UK is sadly behind other countries of the EU on many indicators, especially on the number of CAMHS psychiatrists, "said Professor Swaran Singh of Warwick University, referring to the NHS mental health services for children and adolescents.
Singh is one of the academics involved in the Milestone project, for which the EU donated 6 million pounds (£ 5.18 million) to care for CAMHS care, including its availability, in 28 countries.
"The Milestone project showed how far we are from providing much needed help and care to vulnerable youth at the time of their greatest need. Despite repeated promises from successive governments to increase funding for youth mental health care, the state of the services remains pernicious, "added Singh.
Tom Madders, director of campaigning at the YoungMinds charity, said that the lack of UK beds was forcing young people into a mental health crisis to travel away from home simply to get a bed in an NHS unit.
"If young people are so sick that they need hospital treatment, it is vital that they get it as soon as possible and as close to their home as possible. But at the moment, families in the UK are often forced to travel long distances to inappropriate places outside the area because the services are overworked, "said Madders.
Meanwhile, new research has also found that GP services need to be able to offer longer queries to people considering killing themselves if GPs help reduce the number of those deaths.
While only 2,000 of the 6,000 people killed each year have contact with NHS mental health services before dying, many others have already consulted with their family doctor. Better GP training in support of people at risk and more emotional support for them would offer more life-saving care to those with thoughts of self-harm, according to findings published by the Mental Health Research Center and the Samaritans.
In the United Kingdom, the Samaritans can be contacted at 116 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. In the US, the National Lifeline Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the Lifeline crisis support service is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.