Under 2020's eventful restrictions, how has the mental health of younger people been affected? And what does it mean for their future? Sally Marlow investigates.
What has the experience of children and young people living in the era of Covid-19 done for their mental health and wellbeing?
Mental health researcher Sally Marlow speaks to epidemiologists, clinicians, parents, and young people themselves to try to evaluate how the challenges of 2020 might have impacted our youngest and more vulnerable members of society. In a sector already in need of investment and refreshment, some have called the situation an imminent “second pandemic”, but is that really the case?
Epidemiologists have previously worked with door-to-door and school-based questionnaires to try to evaluate what younger people are going through, and this way have tracked the ongoing rise in numbers experiencing mental health needs. But those scientific tools of objective data gathering which are so crucial to determine mental health policy have not been available this year.
The lack of social contact and the closure of schools and youth groups, necessitated by lockdown measures, have also taken away much of mental health professionals’ ability to support the children and young people they work with. So both at the frontline and at a policy level mental health professionals have had to find new ways to work.
Some trends are coming through, and they are not positive.
But of more concern are the extremes of the scales. As with many aspects of our pre-Covid society, it seems it is the inequalities that are being magnified. Many vulnerable children and young are at increased risk, including those in mainstream schooling, and those who are being looked after by the state. And as with many physical diseases elsewhere in society, remote rather than face-to-face provision may be storing up problems for the future, as fewer and fewer satisfactory diagnoses can be made, and it’s not clear whether digital interventions can deliver the support needed.
Children and young people, as Anne Longford, Children’s Commissioner for England, tells Sally, are in need of their own Nightingale-scale moment.
Presenter: Sally Marlow
Producer: Alex Mansfield