Children at centre of country’s mental health crisis

New analysis by the Royal College of Psychiatrists has found that children and young people are bearing the brunt of the mental health crisis caused by the pandemic.

A year on from the first lockdown and after warnings from the mental health sector about the impact of the pandemic on the country’s mental health, analysis of NHS Digital data shows that, while the crisis is affecting people of all ages, it is under-18s who are suffering most.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists says that 80,226 more children and young people were referred to CYP mental health services between April and December last year, up by 28 per cent on 2019, to 372,438. Additionally, 600,628 more treatment sessions were given to children and young people, up by a fifth on 2019 to 3.58 million.

The analysis also revealed that 18,269 children and young people needed urgent or emergency crisis care - including assessments to see if someone needs to be sectioned because they or others are at harm - an increase of 18 per cent on 2019, to 18,269.  

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is calling for the additional £500 million in the government’s mental health recovery plan to urgently reach the frontline so that people can get the support they need. This funding is on top of the existing planned investment in mental health services set out in the NHS Long Term Plan.  

Dr Bernadka Dubicka, chair of the child and adolescent faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Our children and young people are bearing the brunt of the mental health crisis caused by the pandemic and are at risk of lifelong mental illness.  

“As a frontline psychiatrist I’ve seen the devastating effect that school closures, disrupted friendships and the uncertainty caused by the pandemic have had on the mental health of our children and young people. Services were already struggling to cope with the number of children needing help before the pandemic hit, and they risk being overrun unless government ensures the promised money reaches the frontline quickly.” 

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