Quotable quotes on the effect of the pandemic on children’s mental health
‘The Covid-29 crisis poses the greatest threat to mental health since the second world war . . . Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said a combination of the disease, its social consequences and the economic fallout were having a ‘profound effect’ on mental illness that would continue long after the epidemic was reined in. Up to 10 million people, including 1.5 million children, are predicted to need new or additional mental health support as a result of the crisis.’The Guardian, 28th December 2020
Hundreds of thousands (of children) have been struggling with their mental health, terrified by the daily news, haunted by disinformation spreading on social media and fearful of what their adult lives will be like if this continues.The Daily Mail’, 23rd December 2020
Dr Nancy Bostock, of Cambridge University Hospital said: ‘In our Tier Four under 13s mental health in-patient unit, we have seen a three to fourfold increase in children referred to our service with eating disorders.’ Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s mental health director said: ‘the pandemic has hit young people particularly hard…it is sadly a likely fact of the pandemic’s impact that more young people will need to seek out support for mental health.The Daily Mail,’29th December 2020
Second wave is bringing a mental health crisis: Fear and uncertainty abound while ministers pay too little attention to the alarm bells sounded by hospitals and charities.The Times, 21st October 2020
However, to date, the mental health needs of children and young people as a direct consequence of this pandemic have merited barely token recognition from the Government despite their pledge in the December 19th 2019 Queen’s Speech to reform the 1983 Mental Health Act during the course of this parliament.
Almost a year into the pandemic, the Government has yet to make a major statement (or any statement) about how it proposes to protect children’s mental health. The issue has never been featured at a press conference or a Statement to the House and is not included in the Covid Recovery Strategy.
Much has been said about the detrimental effect of the pandemic on children and young people of school age; but this has concerned their academic prospects.
Writing in ‘The Daily Mail’ as far back as August 22nd, Dr Max Pemberton said that whilst he sympathised with children who had been at the centre of the A and GCSE debacle:
‘This pales into insignificance when compared with the mental health implications of the coronavirus pandemic for hundreds and thousands of younger children.’Dr Max Pemberton
Research published by the Chartered College of Teaching predicts a looming mental health crisis in schools with fewer than 5% of teachers feeling at all confident about their ability to support the influx of vulnerable and traumatised pupils in September 2020. Teachers are worried about pupils’ wellbeing and specific mental health needs and have reported concerns about dealing with issues affecting children such as domestic violence, death of family members and suicide as well as a requirement to direct families to food banks and charities.
They consider themselves to be isolated and completely ill-equipped to provide advice.
In face of this, Ministerial responses have been deeply disappointing. Innumerable Written Parliamentary Answers have referred colleagues to pre-pandemic online ‘toolkits’ and equally elderly ‘trail-blazing’ pilots.
The £650 million ‘catch-up’ premium for schools is repeatedly cited as a type of ‘blanket’ solution to all the problems described above, but monies from this modest sum are not ring-fenced for mental health needs but reliant upon the discretion of head teachers; themselves operating in lieu of guidance.
Ministers have suggested that concerned teachers may ‘adapt’ existing teacher online advice on mental wellbeing to ‘fit’ COVID-19 circumstances and parliamentary colleagues have further been referred to the 2017 Green Paper on Mental Health.
The Chancellor announced a £500m package to support mental health services in England in the Comprehensive Spending Review and has called for rapid progress to tackle the backlog of adult mental health referrals. But there is a whole generation of children and young people who are being allowed to slip thought the net here and the level of Government response is characterised by tokenism of the ‘too little, too late’ type.