Eighty per cent of children and young people with mental health problems have said that the coronavirus pandemic had made their mental health worse.
The second survey by children and young people’s mental health charity YoungMinds found that 41% of young people with mental health problems said it had made their mental health “much worse”, up from 32% in the previous survey in March. This was often related to increased feelings of anxiety, isolation, a loss of coping mechanisms or a loss of motivation.
One respondent said: “Self-isolating and social distancing was a bad habit I worked really hard to get out of. Now I’m being made to do it and being told it’s the right thing to do. It’s very confusing and I’m scared of falling back in to that cycle.”
The first survey investigating the impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus on young people with mental health needs in March revealed the pressure that the crisis has put on young people and support services.
A survey with young people with a history of mental health needs was carried out between Friday 20 March 2020 - the day that schools closed to most children - and Wednesday 25 March 2020 when there had been a further tightening of restrictions in order to establish the impact of the pandemic on their mental health and on their ability access to support.
The charity also asked respondents about helpful and unhelpful coping strategies, and for advice to other young people.
Among the respondents who were accessing mental health support in the lead-up to the crisis from the NHS, school and university counsellors, private providers, charities and helplines, 74% said that they were still getting some level of mental health support, despite the immense challenges services are facing. However, 26% of young people who had been accessing support said that they were not currently able to access support.
The latest survey was carried out amongst 2,036 young people with a history of mental health needs between Friday 6th June and Monday 5th July, a period in which the government announced measures to ease restrictions, including the target for schools to reopen to all students in the Autumn term.
The survey found:
- 80% of respondents agreed that the coronavirus pandemic had made their mental health worse while 41% said it had made their mental health “much worse”, up from 32% in the previous survey in March.
- 87% of respondents agreed that they had felt lonely or isolated during the lockdown period, even though 71% had been able to stay in touch with friends.
- Among more than 1,000 respondents who were accessing mental health support in the three months leading up to the crisis, 31% said they were no longer able to access support but still needed it.
- Of those who had not been accessing support immediately before the crisis, 40% said that they had not looked for support but were struggling with their mental health.
- 11% of respondents said that their mental health had improved during the crisis, an increase from 6% in the previous survey. This was often because they felt it was beneficial to be away from the pressures of their normal life (e.g. bullying or academic pressure at school)
YoungMinds is calling for the government to commit to a recovery plan for children and young people’s mental health which should include:
• Ring-fenced funding for mental health in schools, colleges and universities to enable them to provide mental health support to all young people who need it.
• A transition period of at least one academic term for schools, colleges and universities in which allowances are made for the effects of trauma or emotional distress; this means reviewing behaviour policies, attendance policies and accountability measures, including suspending the reintroduction of fines related to attendance.
• Support for the NHS to cope with a rise in demand for mental health support, enabling face-to-face support to resume widely where possible, and committing to accelerating the mental health ambitions of the NHS Long-Term Plan.
• A wellbeing campaign that is co-produced with, and targeted towards, children and young people, to help them support themselves and find effective help when they need it.
• A long-term cross government strategy on young people’s mental health that prioritises early intervention in our communities, with clear funding in place, working alongside the voluntary sector to address the inequalities and pressures that affect young people’s mental health.
Emma Thomas, Chief Executive, YoungMinds, concluded: “While the future remains uncertain, we must see this as an opportunity to renew our mental health system and to challenge the inequalities that hold so many young people back. This means listening to young people, understanding the challenges they face at this critical time, and ensuring that they are fully involved in decisions that will affect their lives.”
Coronavirus: Impact on young people with mental health needs Survey 2: Summer 2020