A study by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that nearly half a million children in the UK reached out for mental health help during the height of the pandemic.
Eighteen months after the first national lockdown, statistics have shown that children developing mental health issues has risen by 134% based on the same period last year. Experts say that ‘school closures, disrupted friendships and uncertainty’ have had a devastating affect on children’s mental health.
1.68 million mental health sessions have been delivered to young people since the pandemic began with over 8,000 of those being referred to emergency crisis care.
A 24/7 NHS crisis helpline was set to go live in 2023/24 but was fast-tracked due to the growing demand during the pandemic. The crisis line, which is there to ensure everyone can receive rapid care and reduce the strain on A&E launched three years early in May 2020.
Minister for Mental Health, Nadine Dorries says, “our NHS and mental health and care staff have worked tirelessly to ensure mental health crisis lines were stood up ahead of schedule to support people over what has been an incredibly challenging year and I am thankful for all their work”.
Expert psychologists and psychiatrists worry that if the problem continues to escalate then it could cause a long-term issue for children and young people as they reach adulthood.
Dr Elaine Lockhart, chair of the Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, states “These alarming figures reflect what I and many other frontline psychiatrists are seeing in our clinics on a daily basis. The pandemic has had a devastating effect on the nation’s mental health, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that children and young people are suffering terribly”.
Whilst new mental health issues have developed for some children in the UK, relapses for those who have previously suffered have become more common. Eating disorders, depression and anxiety are just a few of the illnesses that children are battling, more so since the pandemic began back in March 2019. The average age of onset anorexia is 16-17 years old according to the priory, 1 in 4 of those who are diagnosed being female.
The pandemic has also hit adults’ mental health just as hard with over 2.2m receiving help an advice sine the first lockdown.
Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists added, “the extent of the mental health crisis is terrifying, but it will likely get a lot worse before it gets better. Services are at a very real risk of being overrun by the sheer volume of people needing help with their mental illness.”
Mental health currently costs the NHS over £105bn each year. The Royal College of Psychiatrists is asking that £500m is invested by the government to help tackle the ongoing mental health crisis so that help is easily accessible to everyone when in a time of need.