‘Second Pandemic’ – 10 Million Britons Need Mental Health Care After Lockdowns

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Health officials in England have warned there is an impending “second pandemic” of millions of children and adults suffering from mental health issues exacerbated by the imposition of lockdowns during the Chinese coronavirus crisis.

Nearly ten million people in England, including 1.5 million children, are projected to need care for mental health issues such as psychosis, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are experiencing long waiting times in the nation’s socialised healthcare system, the National Health Service (NHS).

The leaders of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the NHS Confederation told The Guardian that there are currently 1.6 million people waiting to be seen for specialised treatment for mental health, and a further 8 million people cannot even get on a waiting list, despite being considered as in need of support.

On top of this, some English regions are stretched so thin that mental health specialists are “bouncing back” patients at risk of self-harm, starvation, and even suicide back to their local General Practitioner (GP) instead of treating them, raising concerns that some will lose their lives for lack of care.

The chief executive of the NHS Confederation, Matthew Taylor, said: “We are moving towards a new phase of needing to ‘live with’ coronavirus but for a worrying number of people, the virus is leaving a growing legacy of poor mental health that services are not equipped to deal with adequately at present.

“With projections showing that 10 million people in England, including 1.5 million children and teenagers, will need new or additional support for their mental health over the next three to five years it is no wonder that health leaders have dubbed this the second pandemic. A national crisis of this scale deserves targeted and sustained attention from the government in the same way we have seen with the elective care backlog.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government, which is expected to repeal all remaining lockdown restrictions on Monday under his plan to “learn to live with COVID”, acknowledged on Sunday that as a result of lockdown restrictions “mental wellbeing has been adversely impacted, particularly among young people and those living in deprived neighbourhoods.”

Concerns have long been raised over the mental health impacts faced by children during the unprecedented isolation and social control placed on youngsters during the government’s lockdowns. A report from February of last year, for example, found that pre-teens were harming themselves at double the rate compared to six years prior.

Last July, top British universities reported that almost five times as many children committed suicide as died of the Wuhan virus in the first year of the pandemic.

This month, the Royal College of Psychiatrists revealed that the number of children being referred to NHS specialists for self-harm or eating disorders hit a record 409,347 between April and October of last year.

According to The Guardian, there has been a 52 per cent increase in emergency referrals for children suffering from mental health issues since the start of the pandemic and a 72 per cent rise in those under 18 being referred for eating disorders during the same time period.

To respond to the growing need, the NHS Confederation has called for a massive effort from the government to recruit more specialists, with ten per cent of psychiatric consultant jobs currently vacant.

Commenting on the growing crisis, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Adrian James said: “We urgently need a fully-funded mental health recovery plan, backed by a long-term workforce plan, to ensure everyone with a mental illness can get the help they need when they need it.

“Millions of children, young people and adults are seeking help from mental health services that are overstretched and under-resourced. The situation is critical. The government cannot afford to neglect mental health recovery any longer.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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