Experts have issued a stark warning about the effects of the 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 clearest among families already struggling and call for urgent action “to ensure that this generation is not disproportionately disadvantaged by COVID-19.”
They point to evidence that the mental health of the UK’s children and young people was deteriorating before the pandemic, while health, educational, and social outcomes for children with mental health conditions were worse in the 21st century than the late 20th century. For example, between 2004 and 2017 anxiety, depression, and self-harm increased, particularly among teenage girls.
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
Given that self-harm is an important risk factor for suicide, it is not surprising that rates of suicide among the UK’s children and young people also increased in recent years, they write, though numbers remain low compared with other age groups – about 100 people aged under 18 died by suicide each year in England between 2014 and 2016.
Studies carried out during the pandemic suggest that although some families are coping well, others are facing financial adversity, struggling to home school, and risk experiencing vicious cycles of increasing stress and distress.
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