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‘On scale never seen before’ Number of children treated for mental health concerns soars

GMB: Sean says Hancock 'ignored' him on mental health question

There have been increasing number of youngsters with problems severe enough to require sectioning as experts warned children were being forgotten in the crisis. NHS figures last week showed the number of children referred to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) was 4,615 per 100,000, the highest on record and up nearly 20 per cent on last year.

Dr Bernadka Dubicka, Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Child and Adolescent Faculty said: “We are now seeing increasing numbers of young people with advanced and severe mental health problems who need detaining under the mental health act. 

“This is on a scale many of us have not seen before. Many children have been sitting at home, isolated without access to education, or social care and problems are missed. Over the past term some children have been repeatedly sent home and confined to their houses to self isolate –not even allowed to go out and exercise for weeks at a time. We want to return children to schools safely and we urgently need an impact assessment of government policies on children and young people.”

She added: “In recent years suicide has been increasing in young people and there has been a signal that during the lockdown this may have risen further. We have to watch this very carefully and put in appropriate support now. 

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“We know the lockdown has had the biggest impact on older children more of whom have been self harming. This will only get worse and the more vulnerable children are more likely to be affected – its like a perfect storm and we will have a lost generation of children for whom the effects will continue into their adult lives.”

She said more needed to be done to assess the impact of lockdown on child mental health. 

“There hasn’t been enough attention given to the differential effect of the virus. We should be having an impact assessment of the lockdown on children and young people.”

Shutting schools was seen as a nuclear option in the latest effort to combat the spread of Covid-19 as the virus took its grip across the country.

They are still open to children of key workers, but some experts have said there are still too many pupils in schools.

However, new studies suggest there is little evidence that closing schools halt transmission.

A preprint study carried out by ten leading experts including Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics assessed 10 studies across 146 countries on the effects of school closures on covid. 

This found no clear evidence on transmission either way. 

The authors called on a “robust” evaluation of the risks and benefits of school closures “before implementation.”

Professor Robert Dingwall, a leading expert in public health at Nottingham Trent University said: “This paper has not yet been peer-reviewed, but its authors are highly-respected. It clearly shows that the evidence that school closures reduce the transmission of the Covid-19 virus is in a mess. 

“Children deserve better than this.”

Epidemiolgist Professor Mark Woolhouse – a member of the government advisory group Spi -M but who was speaking in a personal capactiy – said: “The new variant has been the reason given for the closure of schools but lockdown and the lockdown of schools is not because of this. It is because of a failure of health policy. 

“We should have had ways of responding to this crisis which doesn’t involve lockdown especially closing schools.”

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