Children’s Mental Health Week underway as expert warns ‘vital’ intervention is needed

New report finds that teenagers’ mental health remains “under extreme pressure,” as awareness week to help children and young people express their feelings continues.

02/02/21

Children’s Mental Health Week underway as expert warns ‘vital’ intervention is needed

Over a quarter of teenagers said they felt nervous, anxious or edge on a consistent basis, a report from a collaboration between the Mental Health Foundation and Swansea University has found.

The study, taken at regular intervals during the course of pandemic, reveals that teenagers’ assessment of their own mental health has worsened during the crisis.

Nearly a third of teenagers reported trouble sleeping most of the time, whilst 26% said that they regularly had trouble concentrating on schoolwork, reading, or watching TV, the survey found.

In addition, 27% of teenagers surveyed said they felt easily annoyed or irritable on a regular basis.

The report found that teenagers whose parents were unemployed were considerably more likely to report these experiences, which remain in line with the common symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Catherine Seymour, Head of Research at the Mental Health Foundation, highlighted how those from less advantaged homes were “having the hardest emotional struggle of all” and said the report was a warning about the mental health damage caused by the lockdown restrictions.

“We gathered the findings before the recent school closures – and fear that when we next ask teenagers about their experiences, they will be feeling even worse,” said Seymour.

“Young people have told us that they often feel afraid, sad or bad about themselves – and so it’s no surprise that we’re seeing a rise in the number who say their own mental health is ‘poor’.

“Our concern is that the longer the pandemic goes on, the more embedded these problems can become.”

The findings reinforce the work currently taking place across the country to mark Children’s Mental Health Week (1-7 February 2021).

Run by the charity Place2Be, the national awareness week aims to give children and young people a platform to express difficult thoughts and feelings, as well as highlighting the challenges that children face on a daily basis.

This year’s theme is ‘express yourself’ as schools and organisations across the country aim to get children to use artistic mediums to express their feelings but also improve mental health.

Speaking to NHS Confederation, Place2Be Chief Executive Catherine Roche stressed the importance of continued support from government to help children deal with negative thoughts and feelings during the pandemic.

“Now, and in the aftermath of the pandemic, it really is more important than ever that we use this opportunity to deliver the change in our national system, that is required to support the wellbeing of future generations,” said Roche.

“In truth, we don’t yet know what the long-term impact of the pandemic will be.”

Children’s Mental Health Week comes amidst a number of research reports that have outlined the scale of the issue the UK could face as a result of the pandemic and the related restrictions.

An NHS report released in October 2020 showed an increase in prevalence of mental health conditions amongst children, rising from 1 in 9 children to 1 in 6, whilst a report from the Centre for Mental Health predicted that half a million more children will require mental health support due to the impact of the pandemic.

A report from the Children’s Commissioner in January revealed that only 1 in 4 children in need of mental health support had access to the right services, whilst President of the Royal Collage of Psychiatrists Dr Adrian James declared that Covid-19 poses the “greatest threat to mental health since the second world war.”

Speaking on the findings of the Mental Health Foundation report, Professor of Public Health and Psychiatry at Swansea University Professor Ann John stressed the social aspect of the findings and urged the Government to intervene to aid the mental health recovery of all children and young people.

“The pandemic has exposed the deep inequalities in our society. Many studies have shown the greater impact and widening gaps in mental health difficulties, educational attainment and more severe financial consequences for the young and those in living in poverty,” said Professor John.

“[The] Government must address the factors that can contribute towards young people having problems with their mental health in the first place.

“This means delivering an equitable welfare system, guaranteeing housing safety and security and ensuring teenagers have the basics to live comfortably through the pandemic and beyond - including food and warmth.”

Find out more about Children’s Mental Health Week at
www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/about-the-week

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