Experts have issued a stark warning about the effects of Covid-19 pandemic on the mental health of children and young people.
Writing in The BMJ, Professor Tamsin Ford at the University of Cambridge and colleagues say deterioration in mental health is most prominent among families already struggling. They call for urgent action “to ensure that this generation is not disproportionately disadvantaged by COVID-19.”
They claim that studies have shown ‘moderate increases; in mental health problems and depression among under-18s during lockdown”. What’s more, they say urgent referrals for eating disorders in England have doubled in 2020.
Pressures such as financial pressure, difficulties with home-schooling, isolation, and lockdown curbs were leading to ‘vicious cycles of increasing stress and distress’. Professor Tamsin Ford, a child psychiatrist who penned the editorial, said:
“Even before the pandemic, we were seeing deteriorating mental health among children and young people, which was amplified by inadequate service provision to support their needs. The lockdown and other measures aimed at tackling the pandemic will only serve to exacerbate these problems – and even more so for some different age groups and socioeconomic circumstances.
“Young people’s lives have been turned upside down by the pandemic, as is the case for lots of people, but their education has also been disrupted and many young people now face an uncertain future. We’re calling on policymakers to recognise the importance of education to social and mental health outcomes alongside an appropriate focus on employment and economic prospects.”
Although figures suggest the mental health of children and young people was deteriorating before the pandemic, Professor Ford said we are currently experiencing a serious silent mental health crisis in young people – masked by the fact that fewer mental health clinics are running at full capacity due to coronavirus. And although children are at the lowest risk of death from coronavirus, experts warned that “concerning signals remain about the pandemic’s effects on their mental health, which are unevenly experienced across different age groups and socioeconomic circumstances.”