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Parents express fear for children’s mental health amid COVID-19

The government has been urged to take action now to limit the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people’s mental health.

Children and young people’s mental health charity YoungMinds is launching a campaign ‘Beyond Tomorrow’ calling for young people who need mental health advice to be able to get it, increased support for families, and for schools to be able to prioritise children’s wellbeing now and when it is safe for them to reopen.

Emma Thomas, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said: “The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest health crisis for generations, and the restrictions the government has put in place have been absolutely necessary.

“The pandemic has also turned the lives of millions of children and young people upside down. Many young people are finding it hard to cope with isolation, a loss of routine, anxiety about the future, a disruption to their education, and in some cases difficult or traumatic experiences at home. Despite huge efforts from mental health professionals, young people with existing mental health needs often can’t get the same level of support as they had before the crisis,” she added.

The charity has published the results of a survey with more than 1,850 parents and carers, in which respondents expressed worries about the long-term impact of COVID-19 on their children’s mental health and described the challenges they face in finding support.

- 67% of respondents agreed that they are concerned about the long-term impact of the coronavirus on their child’s mental health.

- 77% of parents and carers whose children had required mental health support in the previous three months agreed that they are concerned about the long-term impact of the coronavirus on their child’s mental health.

- Almost 30% disagreed that there was enough information and support available to help them and their child get through this time.

- Almost one quarter of respondents said that they would not know where to turn for advice and information on supporting their children’s mental health during this time.

- Among respondents whose children had received mental health support in the previous three months, 25% said that their child was no longer able to access it, but still needed it.

- 66% of respondents said that the coronavirus had had a negative impact on their own mental health.

Parents and carers who took part in the survey reported that the coronavirus had already affected their children in a wide range of ways, including an increase in anxiety and depression, a sense of loss and fear, difficulties coping with a lack of structure and routine, increased isolation and young people missing face-to-face contact with friends.

YoungMinds also parents and carers about the top concerns that they had for the children and young people in their care. Many respondents were worried about how young people would transition back to ‘normality’ when lockdown was eased and how this would affect their future. Other respondents talked about the pressure of balancing support for their child’s home-learning with work or other caring responsibilities, or the effect the pandemic was having on their child’s recovery from existing mental health conditions.

The charity’s campaign Beyond Tomorrow is urging the government to:

- Ensure that all young people and families who need immediate mental health support can get it, to prevent the pandemic from having long-term consequences for young people’s mental health.

- Help schools and professionals to support young people with their mental health during the pandemic and as restrictions change.

- Commit to introducing additional support for young people’s mental health as we emerge from the pandemic to tackle the anticipated rise in mental health needs.

Emma Thomas, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, added: “As our survey shows, many parents and carers are deeply worried about the long-term impact of the pandemic on the young people in their care, and don’t know where to turn for advice and support.

“That’s why the government needs to take action, to make sure that support is available for young people and families who need it, now and as we emerge from the pandemic,” she concluded.

YoungMinds is launching a petition on the issue.

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