‘We welcome the latest survey published today by NHS Digital on the mental health of children and young people in England. The Covid-19 pandemic has had wide-ranging and detrimental impacts on children and young people’s lives. Whilst this year’s survey does not report a rise in the rates of mental health difficulties from last year, we cannot ignore the fact that rates still remain high and have been deteriorating in recent years.
This year’s survey has highlighted the crisis facing children and young people with eating disorders. There has been an alarming increase in the proportion of children and young people with possible eating problems between 2017 and 2020, with rates being particular high for those aged 17-19, rising from 45% to 58%. During this period, we have also seen a rise in demand for eating disorder services, with analysis from the Royal College of Psychiatrists showing a 270% increase in patients waiting for urgent treatment since 2019/20. There is an urgent need for the Government to invest in support for eating disorders and to act early to stop young people falling into crisis.
Education plays a vital role in children and young people’s mental health. We welcome the survey shining a spotlight on children and young people who struggle to attend school due to their mental health. The findings show that children with a mental health difficulty were twice as likely to have missed more than 15 days of school compared to their peers. However, our members tell us that far too often children and young people are punished for behaviours that are linked to their mental health. It is now time that whole education approaches to mental health and wellbeing are prioritised, and these approaches should be at the heart of educational recovery plans.
We know that accessing support for mental health for children, young people, and their families can be particularly challenging. Despite the policy initiatives from Government to improve the availability of mental health support for children and young people over recent years, the survey findings highlight the high numbers of those still not seeking support. This suggests that young people still do not know where to turn when they need help. Mental health support needs to be truly accessible for all, so that children and young people feel confident that they can get the right support, at the right time. That’s why we are calling for a network of Early Support Hub in every local area.’
Kadra Abdinasir, Strategic Lead, The Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition
Notes to editor:
* Data source for the figures from the Royal College of Psychiatrists: https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/news-and-features/latest-news/detail/2021/08/18/record-number-of-children-and-young-people-waiting-for-eating-disorder-treatment-as-soaring-demand-overwhelms-services
*Further information on early support hubs can be found via this link: https://cypmhc.org.uk/fund-the-hubs/