Services will be ‘deluged’ by mental health referrals when school doors open in September, experts predict

Teachers and health service providers have predicted a huge crisis in children’s mental health needs when schools re-open in September (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jul/19/therapists-and-teachers-warn-of-looming-mental-health-crisis).

Ieso Digital Health puts the sharp rise down to the cancellation or suspension of face-to-face therapies during lockdown and suspension of NHS referrals and services. The NHS’s Improving Access Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme of face-to-face counselling estimates that by September, 470,000 fewer people will have been referred since before lockdown. When IAPT resumes in October it will be facing a fourfold increase in workload.

Research from the Chartered College of Teaching has found that fewer than 5% of teachers feel confident about supporting traumatised and vulnerable children when schools re-open. A ‘mental health crisis’ is expected and some of the possible problems that teachers feel ill-equipped to deal with include:

  • Anxiety
  • Bereavement depression
  • Trauma occasioned by living in poverty and in hunger crisis
  • Damage to wellbeing due to isolation, separation from friends and routines
  • Experience of /proximity to abuse, suicide, domestic violence.

Alison Peacock, Chief Executive of the Charted College of Teaching said that ‘the anxiety about pupils’ learning and wellbeing is deeply concerning.’

Helen Clark, APPG Lead Author, called upon the Prime Minister to pre-empt disaster by announcing a strategy to protect the mental health and wellbeing of pupils and ensure that their teachers are properly equipped to help them

‘An immediate ‘fire fighting’ plan’ is needed with funds to match,’ she said, ‘and the Prime Minister should make an announcement next week, before the House rises for summer recess.

But the enduring problem will not be solved until he keeps his promise to reform the 1989 Mental Health Act during the course of this parliament. Mr Johnson must announce a timetable for that before the parliamentary summer recess and also confirm that the urgent needs of children will be at the heart of the new statutory measures proposed. The countdown begins NOW.’

Helen Clark, Lead Author, All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood

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