Fears of a further surge in mental health problems among children

THE proportion of children experiencing a "probable" mental disorder has increased over the past three years from around 11 per cent to 17 per cent as of July 2020, according to report published by NHS Digital.

The rate has risen in boys aged 5 to 16 from 11.4 per cent in 2017 to 16.7 per cent in 2020, and in girls from 10.3 per cent to 15.2 per cent over the same time period.

The likelihood of a probable mental disorder increases with age and there is a noticeable difference in gender for the older age group (17 to 22 year olds), with 27.2 per cent of young women and 13.3 per cent of young men in this age group identified as having a probable mental disorder in 2020. 

The Mental Health of Children and Young People in England 2020 report was produced in collaboration with the Office for National Statistics, the National Centre for Social Research, the University of Cambridge and the University of Exeter. It examines the changing nature of mental health in children and young people in England and includes experiences of family life, education and services, and worries and anxieties during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The findings draw on a sample of 3,570 children and young people aged between 5 to 22 years old, surveyed in both 2017 and July 2020.

Data recently obtained by the BBC found that the number of children referred to mental health services over lockdown was nearly half as many as the same time last year, and charities fear that worsening mental health and reduced access to support could create a surge in demand over the coming months.

Professor Prathiba Chitsabesan, NHS England Associate National Clinical Director for Children and Young People’s Mental Health, commented on the NHS Digital report: "As the whole country continues to find ways to live with the pandemic, many children and young people will be experiencing a range of feelings including anxiety, sadness and loneliness which are understandable responses to such an uncertain and stressful situation.

"Simple steps like getting enough sleep, talking to friends or family and ensuring your child has a simple routine can make a huge positive difference.

"And the NHS, children’s services, schools, colleges and the voluntary sector are working together to provide a range of support including 24/7 crisis support lines, face to face, telephone or digital appointments and support in schools so issues can be identified and help offered sooner."