lockdown children's services - mental health in children - pixabay image creative commons licence

Lockdown has had a significant impact on the mental health of children and young people in Cheshire East with as many as one in six needing support, a healthcare boss has said.

Dr Anushta Sivananthan, a medical director at the Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CWP), said a well-being hub, Mental Health Support Teams in schools and the emotionally healthy children and young people programme, are some of the services have been set up to help meet the rise in demand of mental health support for children and young people.

“The impact of the pandemic has resulted in a 20% surge demand in specialist mental health care, and that’s across all ages,” she told Cheshire East Council’s scrutiny committee.

“For children and young people at one time it went up to 40 per cent, it’s come down to 20% but clearly the impact of the pandemic and lockdown has had a significant impact on people’s mental health.”

The doctor said the CWP was responding in a number of ways.

“We have established Mental Health Support Teams in schools that act as a link with local children and young people’s mental health services.

“The team deliver evidence-based interventions for mild-to-moderate mental health issues and give timely advice to schools and liaise with external specialist services to help children and young people the right support at the right time.

“We also deliver the Emotionally Health Children Young People Programme which aims to offer secure, sustainable support to all children and young people who may need help or advice to achieve good emotional wellbeing.

“As part of the mental health long term plan we’ve been able to invest in 24/7 liaison psychiatry services in both the acute hospitals.”

She said crisis cafes had been opened for adults.

“We’ve opened two crisis cafes, one in Crewe and one in Macclesfield, which means that people with mental health needs can just self-present and get support and care locally.

“We’ve also launched a mental health intensive support team for those with the most complex needs so we can provide intensive wraparound support.”

The doctor said the loss of a normal routine for children has had a significantly adverse impact on their mental health.

“It is now estimated that the prevalence of children and young people requiring mental health support has gone up to one in six from one in nine.

“This has resulted clearly in more people requiring inpatient care, however there’s also been an increase in referrals to our community services.”

She said a wellbeing hub had been developed for children and families who could self-refer for advice and support.

Cllr Rachel Bailey (Audlem, Con) said children’s learning ability and self esteem had been affected “because they literally haven’t been able to interact in a way that they would have done had masks not being required”.

She asked what provision was being made in schools to help children.

Dr Sivananthan said Cheshire East had been instrumental in introducing mental health intensive support teams in schools.

“We have specialists who work within schools to not just see pupils, but also to support teachers in supporting others,” she said.

“Not all schools are covered.

“There isn’t 100% coverage, but we are working towards that and, as part of the long term plan for mental health, that investment will go into mental health intensive support teams in schools.”

(Story by Belinda Ryan, local democracy reporter. Library image for display only)

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