Last month, the NHS announced the rapid expansion of services to help children and young people affected by the pandemic. It is part of the NHS's Long Term Plan, in which it looks forward to its 80th anniversary in 2028.
We know that a variety of factors have hit children hard in terms of their wellbeing, including a lack of safeguarding and social interaction, as well as digital exclusion. Today's BBC news website carries a report into social workers' fears that a generation will have been "traumatised" by their experiences since March 2020.
Key to the NHS plans is to offer support to almost three million pupils by 2023, through the provision of around 400 mental health support teams covering 3,000 schools in England. This will mean that "35% of pupils in England are expected to have access to a mental health support team by 2023."
In the meantime, parents are being urged to be alert to the signs of low mood and anxiety in their children. Behaviours could include:
- Children being more upset or finding it harder 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- Appearing low in mood, withdrawn or tearful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
Ways to help children include:
- 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
- Talk to a teacher, your GP or health worker about your child’s mental health. They can refer you to the right support.
- If your child is facing a mental health crisis, contact your local 24/7 NHS urgent mental health helpline.
You can read the BBC's full report on how children have been affected by the pandemic here.
And here is the link to NHS's own news item about increased mental health support provision in schools.