Report: One in SIX children struggling with their mental health

One in SIX children are now struggling with their mental health because of school closures and Covid-19 lockdown, new report says

  • Report has urged government to set out roadmap to help schools reopen
  • It said teenagers and children are losing their way in the coronavirus pandemic
  • Children’s Commissioner reported a spike in referrals to NHS services in autumn 
  • The analysis came amid wrangling between the Government and opposition parties over the lack of any timetable for children to return to their classrooms 

One in six children are suffering difficulties with mental health as a result of the lockdowns and school closures, a report said yesterday.

It said teenagers and children are losing their way in the pandemic as parents attempt to help with online learning while doing their own jobs.

The report from Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield urged the Government to set out a roadmap to help schools reopen.

One in six children are suffering difficulties with mental health as a result of the lockdowns and school closures, a report said yesterday. Pictured: A boy is assisted with his online schoolwork by his mother as homeschooling continues due to school closures, January 27

It said: ‘A staggering one in six children now have a probable mental health condition… it is highly likely that the level of underlying mental health problems will remain significantly higher as a result of the pandemic.’

The Children’s Commissioner said there had already been a spike in referrals to NHS services in the autumn and called for a rapid re-opening of schools.

The analysis came amid wrangling between the Government and opposition parties over the lack of any timetable for children to return to their classrooms.

The report continued: ‘The major disruption to two years of education, alongside the limited opportunities to see friends and wider families, to play and enjoy activities and the worry about the impact of Covid on their families, will have taken a heavy toll on some children.’

‘Even before this crisis, children’s mental health services were far from meeting the existing level of need. In the year before the pandemic, referrals to children’s mental health services increased by 35 per cent while the number of children accessing treatment increased by just four per cent.’

The report’s projections were based on an NHS study carried out last summer, following the spring lockdown, which found that clinically notable mental health conditions amongst children had risen by half on levels recorded in 2017.

Miss Longfield called for the NHS to place a mental health adviser in every school to cope with the flood of troubled children likely after they re-open. She also said there should be online mental health support and advice available to children who are currently using their laptops and mobiles to try to keep up with classroom learning.

She said current levels of NHS help for children with mental health difficulties extend to only one in 25 children, far below numbers who need it, and in many cases children have to wait weeks to be seen by specialists.

Miss Longfield said: ‘Even before the pandemic, we faced an epidemic of children’s mental health problems in England and a children’s mental health service that, though improving significantly, was still unable to provide the help hundreds of thousands of children required.’

Lockdown, she added, ‘will be causing even more damage to many children’s mental wellbeing and putting even greater strains on mental health services, potentially for years to come.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured) said schools would be the first establishments allowed to reopen, but not before March 8 at the earliest, once the government has completed vaccinating the most vulnerable people by mid-February

‘That is why in the short term it is so important the Government sets out a roadmap that helps schools to reopen over the coming weeks.

‘As an absolute minimum, all schools should be provided with an NHS-funded counsellor, either in school or online.

‘It is so important the Government sets out a roadmap that helps schools to reopen over the coming weeks,’ Miss Longfield said.

Vicky Nevin of the NSPCC children’s charity said: ‘It is vital the Government puts forward a concrete plan to ensure every child has access to early mental health support in schools and their local community to help prevent problems escalating.

‘Bridging the digital divide so children are connected during lockdown is also vital. This is not just important for pupils’ education but also so they can access support and services that we know make a difference to their safety and well-being, including their mental health.’ 

  • Lockdowns have driven most of the country’s two million students into misery and listlessness, research showed yesterday. Two thirds were plunged into unhappiness when universities and colleges stayed shut at the start of the year, the ONS survey found.

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