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Coronavirus: Impact on Young People with Mental Health Needs

Read our reports looking at the impact of coronavirus on the mental health of young people and find out what we're asking of Government.

COVID-19 summer 2020 survey

Our second survey with young people investigating the mental health impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic shows that many are under increasing pressure and struggling to get the right support.

Children and young people across the UK have had their lives turned upside down by the pandemic. Almost every young person has had to adjust to dramatic changes in their education or employment, routine and home life. Some have experienced bereavement or other  Traumatic experiences during the lockdown period, while groups who were already marginalised or disadvantaged are now likely to become more so.

We carried out a survey with 2,036 young people with a history of mental health needs between Friday 6th June and Monday 5th July, a period in which the Government announced measures to ease restrictions, including the target for schools to reopen to all students in the Autumn term.

The results reveal that:

  • 80% of respondents agreed that the coronavirus pandemic had made their mental health worse. 41% said it had made their mental health “much worse”, up from 32% in the previous survey in March. This was often related to increased feelings of anxiety, isolation, a loss of coping mechanisms or a loss of motivation.
  • 87% of respondents agreed that they had felt lonely or isolated during the lockdown period, even though 71% had been able to stay in touch with friends. 
  • Among more than 1,000 respondents who were accessing mental health support in the three months leading up the crisis (including from the NHS, school and university counsellors, private providers, charities and helplines), 31% said they were no longer able to access support but still needed it.
  • Of those who had not been accessing support immediately before the crisis, 40% said that they had not looked for support but were struggling with their mental health
  • 11% of respondents said that their mental health had improved during the crisis, an increase from 6% in the previous survey. This was often because they felt it was beneficial to be away from the pressures of their normal life (e.g. bullying or academic pressure at school)

We are calling for the Government to commit to a recovery plan for children and young people’s mental health. This should include: 

Ring-fenced funding for mental health in schools, colleges and universities to enable them to provide mental health support to all young people who need it.

A transition period of at least one academic term for schools, colleges and universities in which allowances are made for the effects of trauma or emotional distress; this means reviewing behaviour policies, attendance policies and accountability measures, including suspending the reintroduction of fines related to attendance.

Support for the NHS to cope with a rise in demand for mental health support, enabling face-to-face support to resume widely where possible, and committing to accelerating the mental health ambitions of the NHS Long-Term Plan.

A wellbeing campaign that is co-produced with, and targeted towards, children and young people, to help them support themselves and find effective help when they need it.

A long-term cross government strategy on young people’s mental health that prioritises early intervention in our communities, with clear funding in place, working alongside the voluntary sector to address the inequalities and pressures that affect young people’s mental health.

COVID-19 March 2020 survey

The first survey investigating the mental health impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus on young people with mental health needs reveals the pressure that the crisis has put on young people and support services.

We carried out a survey with young people with a history of mental health needs between Friday 20 March 2020 (the day that schools closed to most children) and Wednesday 25 March 2020 (when there had been a further tightening of restrictions) in order to establish the impact of the pandemic on their mental health and on their ability access to support. We also asked respondents about helpful and unhelpful coping strategies, and for advice to other young people.

This is a snapshot of young people’s views and experiences at a particular time, in a rapidly changing situation. The challenges they face, the concerns they have and their ability to access support may change considerably over the coming weeks.

Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus and the public health measures designed to prevent its spread are having a profound effect on many young people with a history of mental health problems. When asked what impact the pandemic was having:

  • 32% agreed that it had made their mental health much worse
  • 51% agreed that it had made their mental health a bit worse
  • 9% agreed that it made no difference to their mental health
  • 6% said that their mental health had become a bit better
  • 1% said that their mental health had become much better
Among the respondents who were accessing mental health support in the lead-up to the crisis (including from the NHS, school and university counsellors, private providers, charities and helplines), 74% said that they were still getting some level of mental health support, despite the immense challenges services are facing. 26% of young people who had been accessing support said that they were not currently able to access support.
Self-isolating and social distancing was a bad habit I worked really hard to get out of. Now I’m being made to do it and being told it’s the right thing to do. It’s very confusing and I’m scared of falling back in to that cycle.
Survey respondent

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YoungMinds exists so that young people have the strongest possible voice in improving their mental health. We need your help to make sure that voice is heard.

The amount of times I’d tried to break out of this shell, talk about ‘I’m feeling a bit down’, ‘I’m feeling a bit scared’, I couldn’t do it. And now I can do it openly.
Alex, Youth Activist
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