Since the one-year anniversary of the start of the UK’s first COVID-19 lockdown, a plethora of survey results, longitudinal studies and analysis on mental health have been released. Last week, The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) released one of the most concerning yet.
The nationwide picture.
The RCP reported that nearly “400,000 children and 2.2m adults sought help for mental health problems during the pandemic” and that “1.68m more mental health sessions” have been delivered over the past year of the pandemic.
Throughout the past year, warnings from the mental health sector on the impact of the pandemic on the country’s mental health has been consistent. Now, NHS Digital data has confirmed that, while affecting people of all ages, young people, particularly those under the age of 18 are suffering the most.
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The RCP analysis found that:
"80,226 more children and young people were referred to CYP mental health services between April and December last year, up by 28% on 2019, to 372,438."
"600,628 more treatment sessions were given to children and young people, up by a fifth on 2019 to 3.58 million."
"18,268 children and young people needed urgent or emergency crisis care - including assessments to see if someone needs to be sectioned because they or others are at harm - an increase of 18% on 2019, to 18,269."
The RCP is now calling for an additional £500m in the Government’s mental health recovery plan to urgently reach the young people who need it most.
This recommendation is specifically in addition to the current planned investment in mental health services set out in the NHS Long Term Plan, including the promised £79m for children and young people.
The RCP also reported that more children than ever are being treated by eating disorder services, and waiting for care. Sarah [not her real name], spoke to the RCP about her teenage daughter who during he pandemic had a relapse in her anorexia after being discharged from an inpatient unit last year.
She noted that disruptions to her daughter’s regular routines and ability to socialise had really affected her recovery. Sarah then goes on to tell speak the fact that her daughter unfortunately became so unwell, she was admitted to hospital and sectioned.
Sarah [not her real name], said “After 72 days in hospital with no specialist eating disorder bed becoming available, we brought her home where I am now tube-feeding her daily. My daughter urgently needs specialist help for this life-threatening illness, but because of increased demand services are completely overwhelmed. It's a terrifying situation to be in.”
Speaking on the current mental health crisis, Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:
“The extent of the mental health crisis is terrifying, but it will likely get a lot worse before it gets better. Services are at a very real risk of being overrun by the sheer volume of people needing help with their mental illness.”
Responding specifically to the NHS Long Term Plan budget for mental health services, Dr Adrian James said, “While the recent funding announcement is welcome, we need this money to reach mental health services as soon as possible to tackle this crisis.”
With the time-frames in the NHS Long Term Plan and Government Mental Health Recovery plan including dates such as “by 2022/23”, it is clear that those working in the profession, such as those from the RCP see a pertinent need for more immediate funding being pushed to those frontline mental health services. This extra £500m seems abundantly necessary to avoid these essential services from becoming more overrun than they already are.