Royal College of Psychiatrists

Record Numbers of Children Seeking Access to Mental Health Services

A new analysis by the Royal College of Psychiatrists has underlined the damaging impact of long months of school closures and general lockdowns on children’s mental health, showing that record numbers of young people are seeking – and are having to wait for – access to mental health services. The Guardian has the story.

In just three months, nearly 200,000 young people have been referred to mental health services – almost double pre-pandemic levels, according to the report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Experts say the figures show the true scale of the impact of the last 18 months on children and young people across the country.

“These alarming figures reflect what I and many other frontline psychiatrists are seeing in our clinics on a daily basis,” said Dr. Elaine Lockhart, the college’s Child and Adolescent Faculty Chair. “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.”

The college analysed NHS Digital data on mental health referrals for children and young people aged 18 and under. It found that between April and June this year, 190,271 children aged 18 and under were referred to children and young people’s mental health services – almost twice the number (97,342) referred during the same period in 2019.

Urgent referrals had also risen steeply. From April to June in 2019, 5,219 children and young people were referred for urgent care. This rose to 8,552 in 2021, the college said.

At the end of June, 340,694 people were in contact with children and young people’s mental health services, up from 225,480 in June 2019. …

Eating disorder treatment services were seeing more patients than ever, the college said, but it also warned of an “unprecedented” number of children still waiting for care.

Worth reading in full.

Extent of England’s Mental Health Crisis Is “Terrifying”, Psychiatrists Warn

England is “in the grip of a mental health crisis” because of lockdowns, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and under-18s are “bearing the brunt”. The number of children being treated for eating disorders has reached record levels, as well as the number of people reporting being lonely. Here are the key findings:

~ 80,226 more children and young people were referred to CYP mental health services between April and December last year, up by 28% on 2019, to 372,438.  

~ 600,628 more treatment sessions were given to children and young people, up by a fifth on 2019 to 3.58 million. 

~ 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% on 2019, to 18,269. 

The data on adults is equally bleak.

Over one million more treatment sessions were given to adults between April and December last year (1,078,539), an increase of 8% on 2019. There were also 159,347 urgent crisis referrals made for adults, an all-time high, and an increase of 2% on 2019. 

In November, the Government announced a £500 million support package for mental health services to aid the nation’s recovery from lockdown. The RCPsych has called for this funding – which includes £79 million for children – to reach the frontline as soon as possible. Dr Adrian James, the College’s President, says that services are at a “very real risk of being overrun” because of the scale of the mental health crisis.

“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.

“While the recent funding announcement is welcome, we need this money to reach mental health services as soon as possible to tackle this crisis.”

The Chair of the college’s Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry added that services were already struggling before Covid struck and now face even greater queues for treatments due to the impact of school closures and the denial of social contact.

“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.”

Worth reading in full.