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Almost 400,000 children sought help for mental health issues during pandemic

The number of children and teenagers referred for mental health help has risen to almost 400,000 during the pandemic.

Data analysed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists shows that 372,438 under-18s were referred in the last year, a rise of 80,226 – or 28 per cent – on the previous year.

In addition, 600,628 more treatment sessions were given to this age group, up by a fifth from the previous year to 3.58million. And 18,269 under-18s needed urgent or emergency crisis care – including assessments for sectioning.

The college said the rise was the result of ‘disrupted friendships and the uncertainty caused by the pandemic’.

The number of children and teenagers referred for mental health help has risen to almost 400,000 during the pandemic (Stock image)

The number of children and teenagers referred for mental health help has risen to almost 400,000 during the pandemic (Stock image)

The number of children and teenagers referred for mental health help has risen to almost 400,000 during the pandemic (Stock image) 

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.’

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said: ‘The coronavirus pandemic has felt like a lifetime for children and young people, and the negative effects could last a real lifetime if they do not have the right mental health support.’

Another survey released today by the National Education Union suggests four in five teachers have seen mental health issues among pupils increase in the past year.

The survey, of nearly 10,700 NEU members, found that 78 per cent have seen the number of students with mental health issues rise over the last year, with 34 per cent saying the number had ‘increased greatly’.

Many teachers in the poll said the pressure to ‘catch up’ with work disrupted by the pandemic had contributed to mental strain.

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