We are living through a perfect storm for children, young people, and their families. The usual stresses and strains of growing up and facing the ever-present challenges of studying, working, thinking about the future, and navigating the world of friendships, relationships, and identity, have been coupled with the impact of a global health pandemic. This, in turn, is causing a growing need for comprehensive help surrounding young people’s mental health and their families.
The Impact on Children and Young People’s Mental Health
This combination of circumstances and pressures has led to increased referrals for anxiety and depression in children and young people. From 2019-2021, mental health referrals for children and young people to the NHS almost doubled, having gone from 97,342 in 2019 to 190,271 so far in 2021.
Research funded by the Department of Health and Social Care, commissioned by NHS Digital and carried out by the Office for National Statistics, the National Centre for Social Research, University of Cambridge, and University of Exeter, showed that rates of probable mental disorders have increased since 2017. In 2020, one in six (16.0%) children aged 5 to 16 years were identified as having a probable mental disorder, increasing from one in nine (10.8%) in 2017. This increase was present for both boys and girls.
The research also showed that Children and young people with a probable mental disorder were more likely to say that COVID lockdowns had made their life worse (54.1% of 11 to 16-year-olds, and 59.0% of 17 to 22 year olds), than those unlikely to have a mental disorder (39.2% and 37.3% respectively).
The impact of COVID has put huge pressure on individuals and existing health services, especially for young people, and placed resources under enormous strain. At the same time, the capacity of mental health professionals within the NHS, such as its psychotherapists, has not been able to keep up with demand. The 4,697 NHS-based psychotherapists, working within the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) guidelines for safe practice, are only able to cover around 5% of the actual demand for support.
Therefore, It is no wonder that healthcare providers are looking for digital solutions to complement their face-to-face children and young people’s mental health support. In the face of these multiple challenges, it would be easy to think that there isn’t hope but as Helen Keller said: “The world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it."
There is help on hand and practical advice that can support children, young people, and their families as they work through anxiety and depression.
Top tips for managing youth anxiety and depression
- Try to embrace each emotion. Some anxiety is helpful to us as it can act as a warning sign that we need to take action.
- The key to managing anxiety and depression is to take small steps and focus on what you can do now.
- Often, making small, gradual changes in your daily activities or thinking can help your mood.
- Some days, it may be easier. Other days it may be harder. Be kind to yourself when it is not so easy and practice the skills you need to help you manage your mental health, such as being mindful, calm breathing exercises, and journaling to help get negative or unhelpful thoughts out of your head.
- Social support and connections with others can improve your physical health, mental health, and happiness – as can taking regular exercise, which can be as simple as taking a walk in the fresh air.
- Setting goals is an important part of maintaining your progress. When you have a clear, positive picture of your goals you are more likely to feel motivated and energised to make progress.
- Take action to solve the problems that are within your control and change your response towards the problems that are beyond your control.
This advice, along with huge amounts of interactive content, engaging exercises, and hints and tips to support young people and their families, on a wide range of topics, including exam stress and managing relationships, can be found in SilverCloud’s 24/7, on-demand dedicated CYP programmes now available in the UK to support children and young people’s mental health. There are also dedicated modules to support family members who are worried about loved ones or struggling with their own anxiety and depression.
Discover how SilverCloud Health can provide mental health support for children, young people, and their families with our CYP programmes, now available in the UK.