Beat joins call for increased support for young people's mental health

Posted 21/05/2020

The coronavirus pandemic is sadly likely to have an impact on young people’s mental health both now and in the future – whether that’s because of traumatic experiences at home, the pressures of isolation or a breakdown in their access to support. 

As part of a new campaign by mental health charity Young Minds, Beat has partnered with 30 other organisations to write an open letter to the government, calling for urgent steps to be taken to limit the effects of the pandemic. 

Released Tuesday 19th May 2020

Dear Prime Minister, 

Covid-19: impact on children and young people’s mental health 

We are writing to you to ask that your Government takes urgent steps to reduce the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on children and young people’s mental health – both now and in the future. 

The Covid-19 pandemic is the biggest health crisis for generations, and the measures that the Government has taken to limit the spread of the virus, including restrictions on movement and the closure of schools to most students, are necessary to save lives.  

However, the crisis is affecting many young people in ways that will risk long-term consequences for their mental health. One in eight children and young people already have a diagnosable mental health condition, and research suggests that the majority of those believe that the pressures created by the crisis are exacerbating their needs. 

Many others – including those who have experienced bereavement, abuse or domestic violence – are also likely to require additional support. The fear of becoming ill or seeing a loved one become ill, the loss of routines, the difficulties of social connection, the impact of loneliness, the disruption to education and the challenges of living in difficult or dangerous situations are creating additional pressure for young people across the country.  Young people who belong to groups that are already marginalised or disadvantaged may be particularly at risk.

While mental health professionals deserve enormous credit for responding to the challenges the pandemic brings, many young people who were receiving some form of mental health treatment before the crisis are now receiving reduced support or no support at all. Other young people who would not previously have met the threshold for mental health support are likely to require it. Without preventative action, their needs are likely to escalate. 

With the restrictions on access to schools, universities and primary care, there is often uncertainty or reticence about how and when to access mental health support. In many cases, young people have also lost the coping mechanisms that could help them to manage their mental health. 

When it is safe for restrictions to change, there needs to be a clear plan about how to grow and develop services, how to enable social re-integration and how to support groups who are disproportionately affected by the crisis.

Before the pandemic, young people’s mental health was beginning to get the attention and resourcing it needs – but, despite improvements, services were often overstretched and inconsistent across the country. With demand likely to increase, we cannot afford to lose momentum.

We welcome the steps that the Government has already taken to prioritise mental health, including a £5 million fund for organisations providing mental health support, and guidance for parents issued through Public Health England. However, this falls well short of meeting the scale of need. While many voluntary sector providers have been quick to adapt to the changing landscape – moving support online, and using innovative approaches to safe service delivery - there remain gaps in infrastructure and funding which threaten the long term sustainability of these efforts

That is why your Government must take a clear and coordinated approach to tackling the impact of the pandemic on children and young people, launching a recovery plan that enables the growth and continuity of support as restrictions change.  

We are calling on your Government to:

  • Offer immediate emergency funding to increase young people’s and families’ access to mental health support through youth organisations charities and helplines; and ensure that clear routes are available for young people to access NHS mental health services while restrictions are in place.  
  • Launch a national campaign to reach 10 million children and young people, and their families, to promote positive approaches for maintaining mental wellbeing, working alongside the voluntary sector to do so.
  • Deliver a wellbeing support package for schools, enabling them to prioritise wellbeing now and over the next academic year, and providing guidance and resources on how to manage transitions when it is safe for students to return to school.
  • Commit to introducing additional support for young people’s mental health as we move out of the pandemic to meet rising demand, including re-committing to the measures outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan in full and funding additional early intervention service.
  • Launch a cross-government strategy for young people’s mental health, taking a ‘young people’s wellbeing in all policies’ approach to future policy-making and addressing inequalities that can contribute towards worse mental health.

We recognise the scale of the challenge that the Government is facing. However, by taking bold action now, you can reduce the impact of the pandemic and give hope to millions of children and young people across the country. 

Yours sincerely,

Emma Thomas, Chief Executive, YoungMinds

Professor Peter Fonagy, Chief Executive, The Anna Freud Centre

Kate Fallon, General Secretary, Association of Educational Psychologists

Kathy Roberts, CEO, Association of Mental Health Providers

Natalie Bailey, Chair, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

Javed Khan, CEO, Barnardo’s

Dr Ruth Allen, CEO, British Association of Social Workers

Andrew Radford, Chief Executive, Beat

Sarb Bajwa, Chief Executive, British Psychological Society

Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of the Board of Trustees, British Youth Council

Sarah Hughes, CEO, Centre for Mental Health

Sir Norman Lamb, Chair, Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition

Kathy Evans, CEO, Children England

Mark Russell, Chief Executive, The Children’s Society

Angela Salt, CEO, Girlguiding

Advocate Youth Panel, Girlguiding

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive Officer, KIDS

Hamish Elvidge, Chair, The Matthew Elvidge Trust

Mark Rowland, Chief Executive, Mental Health Foundation

Paul Farmer CBE, Chief Executive, Mind

Chris Martin, Chief Executive, The Mix

Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive, National Children's Bureau

Paul Whiteman, General Secretary, NAHT

Caroline Stevens, Chief Executive, The National Autistic Society

Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary, National Education Union

Leigh Middleton, Chief Executive, National Youth Agency

Catherine Roche, Chief Executive, Place2Be

Professor Russell Viner, President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

Professor Wendy Burn, President, Royal College of Psychiatrists

Duncan Stephenson, Deputy Chief Executive, Royal Society of Public Health

Ruth Sutherland, CEO, Samaritans

Schools Wellbeing Partnership

Dr Rania Marandos , Chief Executive, Step up to Serve

Ndidi Okezie, CEO, UK Youth

Denise Hatton, CEO, YMCA England & Wales

Barry Williams, Chief Executive, Youth Access