Spike in number of Wakefield kids needing mental health support, CAMHS says, with many missing social side of school

There's been a sharp increase in the number of children being referred for mental health support in Wakefield.

By David Spereall
Thursday, 4th March 2021, 5:25 pm

Nearly 3,400 youngsters have been in touch with local support services between April 2020 and January 2021.

Most of those referrals came from September time onwards, with more children also needing a higher level of treatment than before the pandemic.

Isolation from friends and school, the impact of social media and the loss of family members to coronavirus have all been cited as factors behind the spike.

The full impact of Covid on children's social skills may not be known for months.

Wakefield s Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) said it was trying to limit Covid's impact on its waiting list so youngsters are treated promptly.

Discussing the rise at a children and young people scrutiny meeting on Thursday, CAMHS manager Carmain Gibson-Holmes said the "general lower mood of the population" had had an impact on young people's mental health.

She said: "I'm sure I don't speak just for myself when I say it's been hard to stay motivated at all times during the lockdown.

"We all have emotional health and wellbeing and for some people that's harder to maintain than for others."

Face-to-face mental health services will return to school as pupils go back to the classroom en masse next week.

"We know for some young people being in education is a lifeline for them, and is a source of routine, containment and normality. They enjoy learning and they enjoy the social aspects of school.

"But we know for others education is difficult and they may have enjoyed this break, and it's easier for them to be at home and learning independently.

"Some of the long-term impacts of Covid-19 are unknown at this time, in terms of their social skills, their education, in terms of their ability to relate to others and I think we'll see more evidence around that over the next few months."

Waiting times for those needing access to CAMHS have been cut significantly over the last two years.

However, the meeting was told that 67 young people are currently waiting for a mental health assessment, while a further 197 are yet to start receiving treatment they need.

More children are self-referring for support too, with access to GP appointments and classrooms having been limited over the last year.

Committee member Andy Tagger told the meeting that services may have to change the way they work to cope with further increases in demand.

He suggested that it may be better to now assume that the majority of children will now need some form of mental health support, as opposed to a minority before Covid.

He said: "My indication comes from what I can read and what I can see and I think it will be a massive problem.

"So many families and children will have never needed access to these services before.

"it seems to me that the model of (mental health) provision that was OK before the pandemic maybe needs to be looked at because of what's been the biggest change in the lives of young people ever."

Ms Gibson-Holmes said that CAMHS was planning to get back into classrooms to "deliver intervention directly".

She said: "What we need to do is get back into school and look at where the demand is and where the pressure points are.

"As a system with our partners we can work to deal with that and look at what the needs of young people are."

Local Democracy Reporting Service

The local CAMHS service can be contacted on 01977 735865. More information about the service and how it can help can be found at https://www.southwestyorkshire.nhs.uk/services/camhs-wakefield/