22 October 2020
The British Psychological Society has raised concerns about the findings of a new report from NHS Digital about the mental health of children and young people in England.
The report found the proportion of children experiencing a probable mental disorder has increased over the past three years, from one in nine in 2017 to one in six in July this year.
It looks at the mental health of children and young people in England in July 2020, and how this has changed since 2017. Experiences of family life, education and services, and worries and anxieties during the Coronavirus pandemic are also examined.
Dr Vivian Hill, chair of the Division for Educational and Child Psychology, said:
"These findings highlight the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on more vulnerable populations including those with pre-existing mental health needs, those living in low income families, and those exposed to overcrowding, family conflict and domestic abuse. For children and young people with an underlying mental health need, the pandemic has exacerbated these needs. There is a complex interaction between these factors, for example poor sleepand feeling lonely can be both a cause and a consequence of declining mental health and well-being. They are also adaptive responses to a life-threatening pandemic.
"It is important not to pathologise these young people. What is clear is that mental health resources need to be more strategically targeted to at-risk populations. This study highlights the urgent need for easily accessed community based mental health services and increasing the supply of educational psychologists working in schools as we enter the second wave of the virus would help to provide timely, readily-accessed mental health support to those who need it most.
"The study also highlights the pervasive influence of poverty, at individual and community levels, both in terms of risk factors and diminished access to support. The evidence is clear; there needs to be urgent targeting of financial and mental health support to our most vulnerable communities. The BPS Poverty to Flourishing campaign is working hard to highlight these needs and to promote equitable access to resources and support."
Dr Gavin Morgan, vice chair of the Division for Educational and Child Psychology said:
“We are very concerned about the findings of this new report. The current generation of children and young people have faced a decade of austerity cuts to local and health authorities which has affected access to support from mental health and psychological services. This has been further exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic and the incremental impact upon the mental health of children.
“This report shows yet again of the need for educational psychologists to be working in schools and supporting the needs of children as we continue to respond to the consequences of austerity, school closures and the resulting impact upon mental health. There will be long term effects that educational psychologists will be supporting for a considerable amount of time.”