In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic children and young people were not the government's priority. Due to being considered relatively low risk, the government focused its efforts on protecting the elderly and the most vulnerable in society. However, nearly four years after the first case of COVID-19 was detected, the effects that the pandemic and series of lockdowns had on children and adolescents in the UK is becoming more prominent.
It is difficult to determine the scale of impact that the lockdowns had on young people, however, in October 2020, eight months after the first detected case of COVID-19, the figure of children suffering from mental health conditions in the UK had risen from 1 in 9 children. Children who already had existing mental health conditions struggled with the fear of spreading the virus to the vulnerable and the elderly as well as with their existing mental health conditions.
During the pandemic, essential support services were disrupted. The closure of schools, typically a place of support that provided structure to the lives of children, impacted children and young people, delaying their academic and social progress. These effects are now just being seen as mental health services were overwhelmed, and schools were unable to support their students at the time.
However, the pandemic has proven the determination and resilience of young people through their ability to cope and adapt with challenges. A systematic review found that 93% of children coped with the lockdowns and had an improved relationship with their families.
The NHS has launched an improved adolescent mental health service that will be accessible to more than 345,000 young people across the UK. The government pledged £79 million to the NHS Long-Term Plan with the aim to increase the mental health support for young people involving providing mental health training to teachers and parents as well as medical and mental health staff.
As the days of lockdowns are seemingly over, the long-term impacts of the pandemic are now being fully seen. Alongside the prolonged school closures, economic instability and fear of spreading the virus to the vulnerable and the elderly, the mental health of children and young people have deteriorated.
Children who had never previously suffered from mental health issues have now been exposed to mental health conditions. However, with the vast support package provided by Parliament and the NHS, it is hoped that the wellbeing support will be provided to the young people who need it most.
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