One in six children are reportedly suffering mental health difficulties as a result of the lockdowns and school closures.
The new report is based on a study carried out by National Health Service, NHS, last summer, following the spring lockdown, which found that clinically notable mental health conditions amongst children had risen by half compared to levels recorded in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The Children’s Commissioner, Miss Longfield said there had already been a spike in referrals to NHS services in the autumn and called for a rapid re-opening of schools.
The analysis comes as the UK government opposition parties debate over timetable for children to return to their classrooms.
UK prime minister, Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday January 27, that schools will stay closed until at least March 8, bringing criticism from angry parents and pupils.
The report says: ‘A staggering one in six children now have a probable mental health condition… it is highly likely that the level of underlying mental health problems will remain significantly higher as a result of the pandemic.’
The report continued: ‘The major disruption to two years of education, alongside the limited opportunities to see friends and wider families, to play and enjoy activities and the worry about the impact of Covid on their families, will have taken a heavy toll on some children.’
‘Even before this crisis, children’s mental health services were far from meeting the existing level of need. In the year before the pandemic, referrals to children’s mental health services increased by 35 per cent while the number of children accessing treatment increased by just four per cent.’
Miss Longfield called for the NHS to place a mental health adviser in every school to cope with the flood of troubled children likely after they re-open. She also said there should be online mental health support and advice available to children who are currently using their laptops and mobiles to try to keep up with classroom learning.
Miss Longfield said: ‘Even before the pandemic, we faced an epidemic of children’s mental health problems in England and a children’s mental health service that, though improving significantly, was still unable to provide the help hundreds of thousands of children required.’