Amid Rise in Child Self-Harm, Suicidality, Alcohol Deaths Boris Appoints ‘Mental Health Ambassador’

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Amid record-high deaths from alcohol, an increase in reports of children committing self-harm, and more people experiencing suicidal thoughts during the lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has appointed an ‘Ambassador for Mental Health’.

The Prime Minister has tapped TV personality and A&E doctor Alex George for the position, following Dr Alex’s persistent calls for the government to highlight the growing strain that lockdowns have had on the mental health of children and young people.

The announcement comes just one day after it was revealed that alcohol-related deaths climbed to the highest in recorded history in the UK, with 5,460 deaths being logged between January and September alone according to the Office for National Statistics.

Last week it was also revealed that there has been a dramatic increase in calls to the London Ambulance Service for suicide-related or attempted suicide reasons. Between March and November of last year, some 15,541 suicidal calls were logged by the service, up from 11,703 during the same time period the previous year.

Lockdowns have severely impacted the mental health of children as well, with increasing numbers of children arriving at A&E hospitals after self-harming or overdosing on drugs, according to Dr John Wright of Bradford Royal Infirmary.

Dr Wright wrote: “Children are a lost tribe in the pandemic. While they remain (for the most part) perplexingly immune to the health consequences of Covid-19, their lives and daily routines have been turned upside down.”

He said that according to the Born in Bradford study, children are increasingly suffering from anxiety, isolation, and boredom.

“Children in mental health crisis used to be brought to A&E about twice a week. Since the summer it’s been more like once or twice a day. Some as young as 10 have cut themselves, taken overdoses, or tried to asphyxiate themselves,” he wrote, adding: “There was even one child aged eight.”

The newly appointed Mental Health Ambassador, Dr Alex, has himself been affected by the plight of the mental health crisis, losing his younger brother dying due to “mental health” in July of last year.

Since his brother’s untimely death, Dr Alex has been campaigning on social media to pressure Prime Minister Boris Johnson to increase support for young people and children’s mental health as well as increasing mental health education.

“Nothing will bring my brother back but if I can make a positive impact that saves even one life, it will be worth moving mountains for,” Dr Alex said following his appointment.

“Never has mental health been more important than now. From schools to universities, the NHS and the wider public, mental health matters. For the current as well as future generations, we must do everything in our power to bring meaningful change,” he added.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Children and young people have heroically adapted to save lives and protect our NHS. This has understandably had a huge impact on their mental health, so I want to shine a spotlight on this vital issue ahead of their return to school.”

The appointment comes in addition to the so-called Minister for Loneliness, a position that was created in 2018 to combat the already increasingly atomised society in Britain.

In January, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of all backbench Tory MPs, Sir Graham Brady called on the government to end the “pointless restrictions” that prevent Britons from sitting on a park bench or taking more than one walk per day, warning that the lockdown is resulting in “removing hope” from the British public.

Sir Graham said that the “lockdown carries its own costs”, saying that aside from the devastating economic impacts, lockdown measures have come with health and mental health consequences, warning: “the danger that we’re removing hope and aspiration for young people.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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