The latest statistics released by NHS Digital confirm what we have known for some time now. The mental health and wellbeing of children and young people are under threat, and that threat is getting more severe.
One-in-six children aged 5-16 now identify as having a probable mental disorder, an increase from one-in-nine just three years ago. As young people move further through adolescence the prevalence of mental health disorders rise significantly. One-in-five 17-22-year-olds were identified as having a probable mental disorder.
Young people’s mental health has become a more acute problem as the country battles with COVID-19. Two-fifths of 11-16-year-olds (42.8%) and 17-22-year-olds (43.1%) said that lockdown had made their life worse. Children with a probable mental disorder were also more than twice as likely to live in a household that had fallen behind with payments (16.3%) than children unlikely to have a mental disorder (6.4%).
It is no wonder that given the perilous financial position lockdown has placed some families in, that more than half of young people (57%) told YMCA that they felt worried about family job loss or not having enough money due to COVID-19.
Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of YMCA England & Wales said:
“With two-fifths of young people (11-22) reporting that lockdown had made their life worse, these statistics corroborate the concerns that YMCA has on the impact COVID-19 and lockdown has had on young people’s mental health.
“What is apparent is the severe repercussions when young people are taken away from their support networks and friends, naturally leading to a detrimental effect on their mental health. With the threat of more local lockdowns across the country on the horizon, this could be the final straw for many young people who are already under increased strain.
“Any lockdown measures put in place must take into account the need to provide young people with positive activities. Leaving them isolated and alone was a flawed strategy in March and it cannot be repeated if we want to protect our young people through and beyond the next phase of the Government’s COVID-19 response.”
YMCA England & Wales are recommending that the Government release some of the £500 million investment for youth services so that providers can immediately deliver extra services aimed at young people’s recovery post-COVID-19. This will allow young people to see each other face-to-face again in a safe environment, and fund both universal open access services as well as targeted youth work programme.
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