The Daily Telegraph

Mental health referrals for young double in pandemic

- By Laura Donnelly

THE number of children being referred to NHS mental health services has almost doubled since the pandemic began, according to “alarming” official figures.

The Royal College of Psychiatri­sts said youths had suffered “devastatin­g” consequenc­es, calling on the Government to invest in services, including more help in schools. Their analysis shows more than 190,000 under-18s were referred to children and young people’s mental health services between April and June this year.

The figure is up 134 per cent on the same period last year, and a 96 per cent rise on the same months in 2019. From April to June 2019, 5,219 children and young people were referred for urgent support, rising steeply to 8,552 in 2021.

The figures show 340,694 children in contact with mental health services by the end of June – a rise from 225,480 in June 2019. Dr Elaine Lockhart, at the Royal College of Psychiatri­sts, said: “These alarming figures reflect what I and many other frontline psychiatri­sts are seeing in our clinics on a daily basis.

“The pandemic has had a devastatin­g effect on the nation’s mental health, but it’s becoming clear that children and young people are suffering terribly.

“Early interventi­on is key. Schools have a critical role to play in this and the education secretary must do all that he can to prioritise pupils’ mental health.”

Tom Madders, from the charity Youngminds, said: “It is devastatin­g that so many young people are in need of mental health support and that there has been such a rise in those who need crisis care.

“Too many young people struggling with their mental health are either not being seen or are facing an agonising wait once they are referred.”

An NHS spokeman said: “The pandemic has had an impact on mental health but the NHS is helping more children and young people than ever before, with over 600,000 supported in the year up to June.

“While there is more to do, the NHS has already set up mental health crisis lines, put more support in schools so that help is available at an earlier stage, as well as setting out ambitious plans to treat an additional 345,000 children and young people each year thanks to the NHS Long Term Plan.”

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