Health

Britain: 1 in 4 young people struggling with mental health aren't getting help in lockdown

Professionals have warned of the pandemic's “profound” impact on mental health.

Source: Alvaro Barrientos/AP

Source: Alvaro Barrientos/AP

One in four children and young people with mental health issues in Britain are no longer able to access the support they need as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, new research has shown.

The survey of parents and carers across the UK carried out by the youth mental health charity YoungMinds polled 1,850 people, and of those, 750 said they had a child who had received support and treatment for mental health issues in the previous three months.

Of that number, 25% said their child was no longer able to access help from the NHS, private providers, helplines, school counsellors, or charities, even though they still needed it.

Many NHS mental health services are currently suspended or restricted, or have changed to involve remote consultations by phone or video. This survey comes a week after Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national director for mental health, said the number of under-18s being referred to NHS child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) had fallen by 30% to 40% since the pandemic began, the Guardian reported.

Meanwhile, as a result of COVID-19, the risk of issues like anxiety and depression being triggered is also higher – with mental health professionals warning in April that the pandemic and the impact of lockdown could have “profound impact” on mental health both now and in the future, according to the BBC.

Other results from the YoungMinds survey show that the majority of parents and carers (67%) are worried about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their child’s mental health, rising to 77% of respondents if their child had recently received mental health care.

And it’s not just young people who are affected – two-thirds (66%) of the parents and carers responding said that the pandemic had impacted their own mental health too.

Emma Thomas, chief executive of YoungMinds, said in a statement about the research that the pandemic had turned the lives of children and young people “upside down”.

“Many young people are finding it hard to cope with isolation, a loss of routine, anxiety about the future, a disruption to their education, and in some cases difficult or traumatic experiences at home," she said.

“Despite huge efforts from mental health professionals, young people with existing mental health needs often can’t get the same level of support as they had before the crisis,” she added.

Some of the parents surveyed told the charity about some of their lockdown experiences.

“My son was having therapy prior to lockdown and was beginning to see positive improvements in his mental health,” one parent said. “Since the lockdown he is regressing more and experiencing lower mood.”

“My daughter is finding it hard not seeing other kids,” another said. “She seems depressed. She doesn't want to come out of her room much or engage with other activities.”

The non-profit is launching a campaign, “Beyond Tomorrow”, calling on the government to take steps to protect mental health as the country eases some lockdown restrictions and looks to get people back to school and work.

YoungMinds is urging the government to provide immediate mental health support for all young people and families who need it, to help tackle the pandemic’s long-term consequences. They are also asking for schools to be supported to be able to offer mental health support as restrictions change.

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