According to Barnardos and a YouGov online poll, where they asked over 4000 children and young people aged 8 to 24, more than half of 16-24-year-olds said they were feeling more stressed, worried, sad and lonely than before the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the survey pointed to positive effects of returning to face-to-face learning, over a third of students in school, college or university under the age of 24 (35%) said they felt they needed more support to cope with their anxiety.

On the whole, younger people fared better than their older peers, but almost a third of 8-15-year-olds said they were experiencing increased stress and worry since the start of the pandemic, with this age group being most worried about falling behind in their studies and about spreading the virus to members of their family.

Chief Executive of Barnardos Javed Khan said, “Barnardo's has consistently warned that the negative effects of the pandemic could last a lifetime if children and young people don't have the right support. Our survey adds further weight to the argument that children must be front and centre of the Government’s plans for the post-Covid period.”

Javed Khan continued, “Given children’s exposure to unprecedented levels of trauma, loss and adversity during the pandemic, schools should all be providing support with mental health and wellbeing and 'summer classes' must not just be about academic catch-up, but also about giving children space to play, re-connect with friends and build their resilience. ”

A new piece of research from the University of Exeter and the University of Cambridge seeks to provide some insight into how we might best address these concerns for children and young people.

The researched analysed data on 740 children who accessed one-to-one counselling, based on information on their wellbeing before, immediately after and one year after the counselling. Children could self-refer for any reason or be referred by parents and even teachers who were concerned for their wellbeing.

When contrasted against a control group of children who had not accessed one-to-one counselling, those that had, displayed a considerably better mental health.

Lead author of the research paper, Dr Katie Finning from the University of Exeter explained how this research can point to successful ways in which we might be able to intervene with children and young people’s degrading mental health since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Finning stated, “We know that children’s mental health is deteriorating, while access to child and adolescent mental health services is decreasing…School-based counselling could help address the urgent need to support children’s mental health, and could help reduce pressure on oversubscribed child mental health services.”

These findings hopefully signal a way in which schools can be a part of “reversing” the negative mental health impacts from the pandemic on children and young people.

To end, Professor Tamsin Ford from the University of Cambridge said very astutely, "We've previously found that children's mental health has worsened during the pandemic. We need to prioritise the provision of evidence-based mental health support in schools. Early intervention at this young age, before mental health problems become entrenched in adolescence and young adulthood, may help to prevent the long-term impacts of childhood mental health problems."