11/04/20 – New Research Seeks to Tackle Impact of COVID-19 on Young People’s Mental Health – Helen Clark writes

The University of Oxford has set up a research project, aiming to track children and young people’s mental health throughout the Coronavirus crisis to identify how their mental health can best be protected during this extraordinary time of national emergency. More details here.

It is led by Professor Cathy Creswell from the Oxford University Departments of Psychiatry and Experimental Psychology who said that such research was needed because:

Research has provided valuable information about how parents and carers can support their children’s mental health in general. However, at this point, we know very little about what might be most effective in the current context of COVID-19.

Professor Cathy Creswell, Oxford University

Professor Creswell hopes that evidence from a substantial cohort of UK parents/carers will provide an information bank detailing ways in which families are managing and how children and young people’s mental health can be best supported. The survey also aims to identify what advice, help and support parents would find most useful. The research method requires volunteer parents/carers to complete an online weekly questionnaire for a week, and then fortnightly and monthly until schools re-open. Initial findings have been published by The Guardian:  “Fifth of children now afraid to leave house, say parents”

Professor Creswell told The Guardian that she hoped that the cumulative survey results would help to assess what was needed to support children and young people who have existing mental health issues and also those whose current difficulties were caused/triggered by the COVID-19 crisis in light of the fact that there is little information available currently about how to support children’s mental health needs at this time. A parent leader of a support group for parents of young people with mental health difficulties felt that this in itself created an extra layer of pressure and observed that many people were struggling; notably parents of autistic children whose routines had been disrupted and others whose children were suffering severe anxiety.

The APPG on A Fit and Healthy Childhood has published three Reports on children’s mental health and supports the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign that arose directly from this work. 

Charter Campaign Spokesperson and APPG Lead Author, Helen Clark welcomed the Oxford University research project and said that the lack of information from the Government about how best to support children’s mental health during the COVID-19 crisis was indicative of an historic and culpable failure on behalf of successive governments to prioritise children’s mental health needs. She warned:

I fully expect COVID-19 to expose exactly how many of our most important public services have been neglected – and nowhere is this more series and urgent than in the field of children’s mental health provision. The University of Oxford’s important research project is indeed timely, but as well as its primary purpose which is to provide much-needed information about what is needed – it will serve to expose just how much children, their parents and carers and all who work professionally with them to protect their mental health are being let down…. yet again.//This will have to change in many aspects of public policy after the COVID-19 crisis is in abeyance – and this is one of them. The Government can make a start right now by issuing a practical and accessible guide for parents about how best they can protect their children’s mental health at this time – and do it now

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