Mental health awareness week: NHS says one in five patients using mental health services are aged 15 and under

Prince William, Prince of Wales (R), with Dr Sian Williams (L), talking to staff during a visit for a previous mental health week.Prince William, Prince of Wales (R), with Dr Sian Williams (L), talking to staff during a visit for a previous mental health week.
Prince William, Prince of Wales (R), with Dr Sian Williams (L), talking to staff during a visit for a previous mental health week.
Nearly one in five patients currently in contact with mental health services in England are now aged 15 or under, new figures can reveal by the NHS.

New data analysed ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week lays bare the epidemic of mental ill health which currently exists among children and teenagers across the country.

The stats, released by NHS England, show 1,807,929 people were in contact with mental health services at the end of February.

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Of those, 428,477, which is nearly 24 percent, were aged 15 or under. And over 30,000 of those were aged FIVE or under.

Last night one expert warned the number of young people requiring treatment could be traced back to lockdown and the pandemic.

Counsellor and author Lynn Crilly also said there rising numbers of youngsters were battling eating disorders.

Ms Crilly who obtained the figures said: “These statistics are very disturbing, and they expose how many young people are now suffering with mental ill health.

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“But we must also remember these are only the numbers of children who have come forward to get help. Many will be suffering in silence.

"This epidemic can be traced back to lockdown. In the early stages of the pandemic, children and adolescents were classed as a low health risk and not a priority.

“However, lockdown and fear of Covid 19, coupled with the prolonged disruption to their everyday lives has left our younger generation in the midst of a whole new pandemic - one with their mental health.

“Sadly, for many children, the pandemic and lockdowns directly affected their personal, emotional, and social development. The aftermath of the lockdowns had a notable impact on the early development in children, and has caused a significant rise in social, physical, and developmental issues.

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“Many nurseries and schools are reporting that children do not know how to play, which is most likely also due to the increased use and reliance on televisions and devices to keep the children occupied.

“In the last few years, social media and gaming sites have played an increasingly crucial role in helping children and young people to stay connected to their friends, family and the outside world. However, spending more time online has a dark side, and this has led to surges in cyberbullying and online exploitation, all of which can have a huge negative knock-on effect on mental health.”

Ms Crilly said there had been a particularly concerning spike in eating disorders among young people.

She added: “Eating disorders thrive on isolation, secrecy and control, so lockdown was the perfect environment for them to breed, develop and grow.

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“The pandemic and lockdown made it difficult to access the right help and we are still seeing the impact of this, particularly in the cases of eating disorders which are now soaring among boys and girls in all areas of the country.

“The focus and talk around dieting, step and calorie-counting, healthy eating, as well as the pressures of a perfect life as told via social media are also taking their toll on young people and leaving many with eating disorders.”

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