Warning of 'perfect storm' in children's mental health as school reopen

The Scottish Childrens' Services Coalition is warning of a 'perfect storm' in mental health for children and young people as schools reopen.

Pupils arrive at Kelso High School on the Scottish Borders as schools in Scotland start reopening on Tuesday amid concerns about the safety of returning to the classroom during the coronavirus pandemic. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday August 11, 2020. See PA story EDUCATON Schools. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

The warning comes on the back of figures obtained by BBC Scotland via an FOI request which indicate that the number of referrals for child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) has dropped by a staggering 57 per cent between April and June 2019 and April and June 2020.

These range from a 28 per cent fall in requests for NHS Orkney to 80 per cent in NHS Dumfries and Galloway.

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The SCSC has warned that mental health services will face an overwhelming and unprecedented pressure due to pent-up demand created by the Covid-19 lockdown, coupled with a cut in youth support services.

This could potentially lead to a “lost generation” of vulnerable children and young people who are missing out on the support they vitally need.

It has urged the Scottish Government to work with authorities and invest significantly in mental health services as children return to school and to ensure that teachers and other staff are aware of the services on offer for young people needing support.

The SCSC has warned that self-isolation and social distancing have had an impact on young people struggling with issues such as anxiety and depression.

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It has noted that even the most resilient children are going to need additional support as they navigate this transition back into whatever is the new normal, and some will need a lot of extra support.

A report commissioned by Young Scot, YouthLink Scotland and the Scottish Youth Parliament, called Lockdown Lowdown, found almost two-fifths of young people felt moderately or extremely concerned about their own mental wellbeing.

A spokesperson for the SCSC said: “These latest figures are deeply troubling and point to a ‘perfect storm’ for our young people, with increased demand coupled with cuts in services.

“While referrals have dropped during lockdown and children are not accessing support, we are storing up immense problems for the future as mental health services face being overwhelmed due to greatly increased demand.

“The Government needs to work urgently with the relevant authorities to ensure that not only is there sufficient provision available at the local level, but that this is clearly communicated and easily accessible for young people and their parents or carers.

“Mental health services must be given funding and resources equal to that of physical health provision and this pandemic has ushered in an urgency and necessity that cannot be ignored.

“Not just the NHS but also third sector and other independent organisations who play such a key role in addressing mental health services must receive the funding they vitally need or we face having a ‘lost generation’ of vulnerable children and young people.”

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