NHS treats record number of children for mental health problems every month

A record number of children are now being treated for mental health problems on the NHS, according to figures.

The latest NHS figures reveal 420,000 under-18s were either undergoing treatment or waiting to start in February.

This is a 54 per cent rise in the number of young people seeking help compared to the same time in 2020, before the pandemic struck.

Experts say Covid has exacerbated mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and self-harm among children. NHS services may be overwhelmed by rising demand for help, campaigners fear.

Virus restrictions and school closures damaged the mental health of UK children by disrupting their routines and decreasing social contact with friends.

There are also concerns a number of young Britons suffering from poor mental health are not getting the help they need because they don’t meet the threshold to get help from the NHS.

A survey of just over 1,000 GPs last month by charity stem4 found some children, even those who are self-harming, are not considered sick enough to get treatment.

In February, NHS statistics revealed 37 per cent of those on waiting lists in 2020/21 were yet to start treatment by the end of the financial year.

NHS England’s national mental health director, Claire Murdoch, said the pandemic had ‘inevitably’ taken a toll on the nation’s mental health.

‘As these figures show, demand continues to skyrocket, with a third more children treated in February this year compared to February 2020,’ she said.

She added that the NHS was responding to this rising demand  by expanding mental health teams in 4,700 schools and colleges and setting up 24/7 mental health crisis telephone support services for all ages, which now receive 20,000 calls a month.

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