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Children’s mental health crisis leaves 400,000 under-18s in need of NHS treatment every month

A record number of children are now being treated for mental health problems on the NHS, according to figures.

The latest figures from the NHS reveal that 420,000 under-18s were receiving treatment or waiting to start in February.

This is a 54 percent increase in the number of youth seeking help compared to the same period in 2020, before the pandemic hit.

Experts say that Covid has exacerbated mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and self-harm among children. NHS services may be overwhelmed by the growing demand for help, campaigners fear.

Virus restrictions and school closures have damaged the mental health of UK children by disrupting their routines and decreasing social contact with friends.

Experts warn that the impact of Covid lockdowns has exacerbated mental health problems among children and young people as treatment lists reach record levels

Experts warn that the impact of Covid lockdowns has exacerbated mental health problems among children and young people as treatment lists reach record levels

What to do if you are a parent who needs help for your child

If your child is struggling and needs help, you may be feeling really worried and not sure where to start. Remember that you and your child are not alone. There are services, professionals and organizations that can help you, and information on how to access them.

Trying to find the right help for your child and navigate the different services can be really exhausting at times. Remember to take care of yourself as she goes along, and remember that he’s doing the best she can and that it’s not always easy.


Your local GP can discuss your child’s mental health concerns and may refer you to other services such as CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).

You can access advice through CAMHS and other NHS services.

Talking to professionals can sometimes seem daunting, and it can be hard to find the right words to explain what’s going on or what help you think your child needs.

Parents in similar situations have found that the following tips can help.

1. Write down your concerns

Before you talk to a professional, write down your concerns and times you’ve noticed behaviors or feelings that are particularly worrying. You can do this simply by making a list on your phone. You can then bring this with you to appointments to give the provider a clear picture of your child’s situation and to support any referral requests.

2. Explore local services

If you’re on a waiting list for help, explore if there are locally available services you can access in the meantime. Your child may also be able to get more immediate online support from organizations like Mix Y Koot. You can find other online services and help lines at the bottom of this page.

3. Try to talk to other parents

As you find your way around local services, try talking to other parents who have been through this, or talk to friends or family who can advise you on where to start. For example, if you know someone who works in mental health support, they may have a good idea of ​​what is available locally.

4. Follow up after appointment

Whenever possible, follow up via email after appointments, for example with teachers or other staff at your child’s school, to confirm what was agreed upon. Then check in a week or two later to find out what happened. This is a good way to keep things moving.

Source: young minds.

Olly Parker, head of external affairs for the mental health charity Young Minds, said The Guardian the record numbers represented an “unprecedented crisis” in children’s mental health.

“The record number of children and young people receiving NHS care tells us that the crisis in young people’s mental health is a wave that is breaking now,” he said.

This February’s total of 420,314 ‘open referrals’ for NHS mental health for those under 18 is the highest since records began in 2016.

The figure is an increase of 147,853 compared to pre-pandemic figures and has grown by 80,096 in the last year alone.

Parker added: ‘The rise in the number of young people seeking help from the NHS is relentless and unsustainable.

‘Over the last two years, young people have experienced isolation, disruption to their education and reduced access to support, including from counselors and GPs.

“All of these things have taken a huge toll on their mental health, but these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg and they will continue to rise.”

There is also concern that a number of young British people with mental health problems are not getting the help they need because they do not meet the threshold for NHS help.

A survey of just over 1,000 GPs carried out last month by the charity Stem4 found that some children, even those who self-harm, are not considered sick enough to receive treatment.

In one case, a crisis team in Wales would not immediately assess the mental health of an actively suicidal child, who had been prevented from jumping from a building earlier that day, unless referred in writing by the GP. .

Nihara Krause, a consultant clinical psychologist and founder of stem4, said the children were not getting the help they needed.

“Teachers and GPs say children with mental health problems are being turned away in record numbers because their difficulties don’t meet the high threshold for treatment, or are stuck on long waiting lists,” he said.

The shocking state of the NHS’s child and adolescent mental health services (CAMS) has long been criticized, with too many children waiting too long for help.

In February, NHS statistics revealed that 37 per cent of those on waiting lists in 2020/21 had not yet started treatment at the end of the financial year.

There is also a postcode lottery to access treatment, with children in some parts of the country waiting an average of just six days, while others were forced to wait 81.

NHS England’s national director of mental health, Claire Murdoch, said the pandemic had “inevitably” affected the nation’s mental health.

“As these figures show, demand continues to skyrocket, with a third more children treated in February this year compared to February 2020,” he said.

He added that the NHS was responding to this growing demand by expanding mental health teams in 4,700 schools and universities and setting up 24/7 mental health crisis telephone support services for all ages, which they now receive 20,000 calls a month.

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