16/05/20 – Royal College of Psychiatrists say that COVID-19 effect will see mental health services ‘overwhelmed’ without urgent financial investment – HELEN CLARK WRITES

The Royal College of Psychiatrists have said that with inadequate current resources and no guarantee of future urgent financial investment in services, the fall-out from COVID-19 has triggered a national mental health crisis.

Professor Wendy Burn, President of the Royal College Psychiatrists said:

‘We are already seeing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on mental health with more people in crisis. But we are just as worried about the people who need help now but aren’t getting it. Our fear is that the lockdown is storing up problems which could then lead to a tsunami of referrals.

Mental health services will be at risk of being overwhelmed unless we see continued investment.’

The Royal Society’s findings are contained in the results of a survey of 1,369 psychiatrists conducted between May 1st – 6th 2020 in which 45% of participants recorded a reduction in attendees at routine appointments; significant pressures on families as a result of 24/7 home confinement and the emergence of ‘lockdown anxiety’ and ‘corona psychosis.

43% of psychiatrists had seen an alarming increase in their emergency caseload.

Some adults and children with no previous history of mental illness were suffering psychotic episodes, mania and depression, with some admitted to hospital.

Dr Bernadka Dubicka, Chair of the Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry said:

‘We are worried that children and young people with mental illness who may be struggling are not getting the support that they need. We need to get the message out that services are still open for business.’ 


Typical problems besetting confined families include:

  • Relationship difficulties
  • Hallucinations linked to lockdown
  • Misuse of alcohol and other drugs; including cannabis
  • Stress occasioned due to lack of income; unemployment consequent upon COVID–19
  • Enforced separation from key family, friends and social and medical support networks
  • Sleeping problems

Claire Murdoch from NHS England informed MPs that mental health problems arising from, or exacerbated by, the pandemic could overwhelm the NHS for years to come and would result in people requiring long term care as they did following the Grenfell fire.

APPG Lead Author, Helen Clark said:

‘This is an extremely serious situation. We have said repeatedly in our reports that mental health services have been traditionally underfunded and it is undeniable that a crisis in children’s mental health was with us even before the horrific imposition of COVID-19.

In the December 2019 Queen’s Speech, Boris Johnson promised to reform the 1983 Mental Health Act. We have argued that in such a reform, the needs of children must be paramount with services designed that are appropriate to their needs and capable of winning the confidence of parents, carers and professionals. Only then will we see lasting and long term health improvements. Our arguments were never more urgent and relevant than they are now!

I call upon our APPG members to write to their MP and ask them to demand that the Government will ensure that children’s mental health services are fully protected, expanded and funded; that they are central to the reform of the 1983 Act and that they are brought forward after a Public Consultation Process that is transparent; engaging the widest possible participation. Act NOW to avert tragedy later down the line.

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