Young people's mental health in the headlines

Last week was a busy week for the College press office, with our President and our Child and Adolescent Faculty in the headlines.

COVID: Mental health is being overlooked

With local lockdowns and regional tiers in the news over the last few weeks, many are understandably concerned about the negative mental health consequences of these new measures to control the spread of the virus, especially as we approach winter.

However, much of the discussion in the media overlooks the fact there are also negative mental health consequences associated with rising numbers of cases and hospital admissions.

To communicate this argument, the College press office successfully pitched a comment piece from our President, Dr Adrian James, to The Independent, who published it online alongside a news article reporting the key points.

In the opinion article, Adrian said: "We need urgently to wake up to the very serious mental health consequences for people who get coronavirus and for the families of those who are disabled or killed by this disease.

“Stricter measures to control the virus are needed to minimise COVID-related mental illness as much as possible.”

He added: "As well as controlling the virus where we can, we must face up to the fact that coronavirus and the measures taken to control it, will increase mental illness."

He concluded: "We cannot overcome COVID with piecemeal solutions. The mental health consequences of the virus and the measures needed to control it must both be addressed by government and health services. To those who say the price is too high, I say this. Pay now, or pay more later, with a cruel rate of interest rate calculated in suffering and wasted lives."

Adrian was also quoted in a Guardian article reporting on disappointment from NHS Providers, who represent NHS trusts, about the lack of attention on mental health from this government.

Echoing their concerns, he said: “Parity of esteem cannot be a term that is bandied around by politicians, it must be accompanied by action. We stand on the precipice of a mental health crisis. The government must do all it can to protect everyone from the mental health consequences of the pandemic.”

The impact on young people

New statistics on the mental health of children and young people were published by NHS Digital last week.

These were the result of a survey carried out during lockdown, as a follow-up to research carried from 2017.

The headline finding was that rates of probable mental disorders have increased. In 2020, one in six (16.0%) children aged 5 to 16 years were identified as having a probable mental disorder, up from one in nine (10.8%) in 2017.

The statistics were released immediately with no advance preview or embargo, so we had to work quickly to issue an immediate response from Dr Bernadka Dubicka, Chair of our Child and Adolescent Faculty. Dr Dubicka said: “It’s deeply distressing to see such a sharp increase in the number of young people living with a mental illness, more so as lockdown and poverty has made many of their lives significantly worse."

Her comments were reported by The Times, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail and The Sun. Dr Jon Goldin, Vice-Chair of the Faculty, was also interviewed by ITV News about the statistics and the pressures on CAMHS.

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