Research and literature regarding the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people has become more frequent and widespread over recent years, as data and trends show an increasingly concerning picture. In the year prior to the global pandemic, referrals to children’s mental health services rose by 35% however there was only a 4% increase in the number of children who gained access to treatment.
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But why has there been this increase?
- Has there been an increase in the number of children and young people receiving a formal diagnosis?
- In 2014, the term ‘mental health’ was introduced in the Special Educational Need and Disabilities (SEND) Code of Practice in 2014. This increased the focus on tackling issues which have an impact on the mental health of children and young people. Has this had an impact?
- Is there more awareness, therefore more recognition and thus a higher number of referrals?
- Social media and exam pressures have been cited as factors contributing to the poor mental health of children and young people. Is this true?
These – and so many more reasons have been cited – all of which deserve our careful and critical consideration. Presently, much is being researched globally to try to understand the extent of mental health issues in our society and this will – in part – help to begin to ascertain why there has been this increase.
The UK Government are engaged in research that is scrutinising the impact – in real time – of COVID-19 in respect of mental health and wellbeing. To date, it has been suggested that some children and young people appear to have experienced greater negative impacts on their mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic and that between September 2020 up until January 2021 when the second period of predominantly online learning was occurring, there was further decline in wellbeing amongst our children and young people.
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What is important to remember, is that whatever the research and literature regarding the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people says, we need to view it with a critical eye and consider the source of the data.
Early intervention is essential and along with it, adequate funding to support this
Public Health England Evidence based Practice Unit. (Updated 8 April 2021). Research and analysis – Chapter 7. Children and young people. In: COVID-19 mental health and wellbeing surveillance report. London, UK: Government Digital Service.