Government money for research into effects of pandemic on children’s mental health is but one small step – BMJ

https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m3942

One of six research projects to receive a share out of £495,000 out of £2m government funding looking at the effects of Covid-19 on certain groups is:

an online cognitive behavioural therapy programme for children aged 5-12 years who have anxiety. The study will assess whether an online programme is an effective alternative to face to face provision by child and adolescent mental health services which were already struggling to cope with increased demand following the pandemic.

Cathy Cresswell from the University of Oxford who is leading the study told a Science and Media briefing on 9 October:

The pandemic has caused high levels of disruption and uncertainty for young people. Anxiety among primary school age children has increased because they are concerned about friends and family becoming unwell and potentially dying.’ She added that secondary school children tended to have more online contact with their peers than younger children which may mean they feel less isolated.

Cathy Cresswell, University of Oxford

The research project is one under the umbrella of NHS Check (https://www.nhscheck.org) conducted by Sir Simon Wessely, professor of psychological medicine at Kings’ College London. He has said that the studies began in April 2020 at Kings’ College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust ‘on a shoestring’ but the new Government funding will now mean that the research can be expanded in 18 other Trusts.

Helen Clark, APPG Lead Author and Campaign Manager for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign said:

Sir Simon Wessely’s credentials for undertaking this work are without question and I am pleased that at last the Government is recognising that the mental health of children has been seriously compromised by this dreadful pandemic. But of course the scope of the study and the amount of money allocated by the Government is only skimming the surface of the terrible crisis in children’s metal health; present prior to the pandemic but now potentially spiralling completely out of control.

However, in the House of Commons only this week, the Minister for Mental Health, Nadine Dorries in reply to a debate in Westminster Hall seemed to suggest that the effect of the pandemic on mental health overall gave no undue cause for concern. She even appeared to think that arguments to the contrary were alarmist!

I am sure that this limited study into children’s mental health will show that she is very much mistaken. The Child Mental Health Charter Campaign will await the outcome with interest. In the meantime we will re-double our own efforts to press this Government to take its head out of the sand and set a timetable to introduce its promised reform of the 1983 Mental Health Act with the needs of children at its heart during the course of this Parliament’

Helen Clark, 10/10/20

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