Record 420,000 Children a month in England treated for Mental Health Problems
Record 420,000 children a month in England treated for Mental Health Problems
In May the Guardian reported that more than 400,000 children and young people a month are being treated for mental health problems – the highest number on record – prompting warnings of an unprecedented crisis in the wellbeing of under-18s.
Experts say Covid-19 has seriously exacerbated problems such as anxiety, depression and self-harm among school-age children.
The latest NHS figures show “open referrals” – troubled children and young people in England undergoing treatment or waiting to start care – reached 420,314 in February, the highest number since records began in 2016.
The total has risen by 147,853 since February 2020, a 54% increase, and by 80,096 over the last year alone, a jump of 24%. January’s tally of 411,132 cases was the first time the figure had topped 400,000.
Mental health charities welcomed the fact that an all-time high number of young people are receiving psychological support
The number of open referrals to NHS child and adolescent mental health services in England stood at 420,314 in February
“There is an unprecedented crisis in young people’s mental health, further evidenced by these record numbers of young people needing help from the NHS,” said Olly Parker, the head of external affairs at Young Minds.
“The record high number of children and young people receiving care from the NHS tells us that the crisis in young people’s mental health is a wave that’s breaking now.”
Over the past two years young people have experienced isolation, disruption to their education and reduced access to support, including from counsellors and GPs. All of these things have massively impacted their mental health, but these figures are only the tip of the iceberg and will continue to rise. He said many young people were reaching crisis point before could get the treatment they need.
Catherine Roche, the chief executive of Place2Be, which provides counselling to 450 primary and secondary schools across the UK containing 250,000 pupils, said: “What we’ve seen across our frontline services in UK schools is rising numbers of young people struggling with anxiety, self-harm, eating difficulties and suicidal thoughts.”
A survey of school heads and other staff by Place2Be and the National Association of Head Teachers published in February found that large majorities had seen increases in mental health problems among pupils since the start of the academic year, including low self-esteem (86%), depression (76%) and sustained feelings of anger (68%).
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director, said: “The toll of the pandemic has inevitably had an impact on the nation’s mental health, with more young people than ever before accessing NHS services. As these figures show, demand continues to skyrocket, with a third more children treated in February this year compared to February 2020.”
She said the NHS had responded by expanding mental health teams in 4,700 schools and colleges and setting up 24/7 mental health crisis telephone support services for all ages, which now receive 20,000 calls a month.
Primary schools have a vital role to play in supporting children’s mental health; teaching them the skills they need to recognise and deal with their emotions, helping those with difficulties get the support they need.
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