NHS encourages children and young people to seek help as new data shows rise in mental health problems

England’s top children and young people’s mental health doctor is encouraging youngsters to seek help if they need it, as NHS Digital’s new survey shows there has been a rise in mental health problems in children and young people during the pandemic.

The survey shows one in six children and young people had a probable mental health disorder in July during the first wave, compared to one in nine in 2017.

NHS England’s Professor Prathiba Chitsabesan has said that it is entirely understandable that young people have concerns and anxieties given the impact and upheaval caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

And the NHS is stressing that children and young people, and those who care for them, should be reassured there are sources of help for anyone concerned with their mental health and is encouraging families to seek support, especially if symptoms are persistent and impacting on their everyday life.

Professor Prathiba Chitsabesan, NHS England Associate National Clinical Director for Children and Young People’s Mental Health, said: “As the whole country continues to find ways to live with the pandemic, many children and young people will be experiencing a range of feelings including anxiety, sadness and loneliness which are understandable responses to such an uncertain and stressful situation.

“Simple steps like getting enough sleep, talking to friends or family and ensuring your child has a simple routine can make a huge positive difference.

“And the NHS, children’s services, schools, colleges and the voluntary sector are working together to provide a range of support including 24/7 crisis support lines, face to face, telephone or digital appointments and support in schools so issues can be identified and help offered sooner.”

Professor Chitsabesan has previously issued a list of signs parents should look out for and where they can access help.

Signs that parents should look out for include:

  • You might find they are more upset or find it hard to manage their emotions
  • They may appear anxious or distressed
  • Increasing trouble with sleeping and eating
  • Appearing low in mood, withdrawn or tearful
  • Reporting worried or negative thoughts about themselves or their future
  • For younger children, there may be more regressed behaviour such as bed wetting or separation anxiety

If a parent is worried about their child’s mental health, they can help by:

  • Making time to talk to your child
  • Allow your child to talk about their feelings
  • Try to understand their problems and provide reassurance that you have heard them and are there to help
  • Help your child do positive activities including exercise
  • Try to keep a routine over the next few months
  • Look after your own mental health.

If someone is in a crisis, the NHS provides urgent mental health helplines offering 24-hour advice and support, or an assessment to help decide on the best course of care.