Words by Beth Pratt, News Print Editor

“The impact of the pandemic on mental health could be fatal and wipe out years of progress if there is not a significant injection of cash”, the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists has said.

Too many people have experienced loneliness during the multiple lockdowns that have been brought upon the U.K.. There has been a surge in the demand for psychiatrists this summer. The figures for June are the most recently available statistics and show the highest number of people in desperate need of treatment since records began. Approximately 1.5 million people received NHS mental health support in June, but extra funds are now urgently needed to help a further 1.6 million people waiting for mental health treatment after a year of isolation. Referrals for people of all ages have increased by 24%.

Estimated life satisfaction among British adults has yet to recover with adults reporting depressive symptoms doubling from 10% to 20% after the start of lockdown. Sampled anxiety remains above pre-pandemic levels. 

The government has promised an extra £2.3 billion a year by 2023 in the hopes that this will transform mental health services post-pandemic. However, the Royal College is calling for additional funds as the government is yet to take into consideration other issues such as the poor conditions of treatment buildings.

Dr Adrian James, Britain’s most senior psychiatrist, has outlined that new mental health hospitals need to be built, outdated infrastructure needs to be altered and a large number of specialist doctors need to continue to be trained in order to provide high-quality care to support the already stretched services that are struggling to meet demand.

A separate report has warned that a generation of children faces years of mental illness due to the Covid-19 pandemic with children from poorer backgrounds being at greater risk.  Joseph Howes, the chief executive of the charity Buttle UK, said: “It’s clear that the pandemic has exacerbated some of the very challenging experiences that many children on low incomes were already facing and with it the level of trauma they are dealing with. The circumstances of the last 18 months are not allowing them to deal with this as they might have done.”

In a new analysis, the disturbing toll of the pandemic is revealed as a record number of children and young people are accessing NHS services for their mental health. Nearly 200,000 young people have been referred in the past three months, which is almost double pre-pandemic levels.

Dr Elaine Lockhart, the College’s child and adolescent faculty chair, has said that “the pandemic has had a devastating effect on the nation’s mental health, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that children and young people are suffering terribly.”

It has been mentioned that as a way of reducing the pressure on the NHS, schools should have plans in place to respond to students’ mental health difficulties. But in order to do this, greater investment is needed during the rollout of mental health support teams.

Siobhan Bryant, a senior child and adolescent mental health nurse working in the NHS, explained that children “need more than therapy or talking-cure interventions. They need mental health interventions joined with other vital government agencies in order to make effective changes to their lived experience.”

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