Monday, May 23, 2022

Mental-health and the well being of the young

 420,314  children and young people in February   were being treated for mental health problems – the highest number on record – prompting warnings of an unprecedented crisis in the well-being of under-18s.

Experts say Covid-19 has seriously exacerbated problems such as anxiety, depression and self-harm among school-age children and that the “relentless and unsustainable” ongoing rise in their need for help could overwhelm already stretched NHS services.

The total has risen by 147,853 since February 2020, a 54% increase, and by 80,096 over the last year alone, a jump of 24%. January’s tally of 411,132 cases was the first time the figure had topped 400,000.

Mental health charities fear the figures are the tip of the iceberg of the true number of people who need care, and that many more under-18s in distress are being denied help by arbitrary eligibility criteria.

“Open referrals” are under-18s who are being cared for by child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) or are waiting to see a specialist, having been assessed as needing help against treatment thresholds. GPs, teachers and mental health charities believe the criteria are too strict, exclude many who are deemed not ill enough, and amount to rationing of care. survey of GPs published last month by the youth mental health charity stem4 found that half said CAMHS were rejecting half of referrals they made of under-18s suffering from anxiety, depression, conduct disorder and self-harm because their symptoms were not seen as severe enough. 

“There is an unprecedented crisis in young people’s mental health, further evidenced by these record numbers of young people needing help from the NHS,” said Olly Parker, the head of external affairs at Young Minds. “The record high number of children and young people receiving care from the NHS tells us that the crisis in young people’s mental health is a wave that’s breaking now.” He said many young people were reaching crisis point before could get the treatment they need.

Nihara Krause, a consultant clinical psychologist and the founder of stem4, said that while more under-18s were getting help, it was unclear from the figures how many received effective treatment. “Teachers and GPs say that children and mental health in mental health distress are either being rejected in record numbers because their difficulties do not meet the high threshold for treatment, or they are stuck on long waiting lists. These latest figures also lack any real detail to warrant claiming there has been a marked improvement in accessing effective treatment. They just show greater need.” She said not just the prevalence but also the severity and complexity of youth mental health problems had increased in recent years. In addition, Covid-induced loneliness, increased time spent online, disrupted routines and exposure to family stress have increased levels of distress.

Record 420,000 children a month in England treated for mental health problems | Mental health | The Guardian

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