The Healthwatch report shows that GPs have seen a 90% increase in mental health problems among adolescents since the pandemic | Panda Anku

A REPORT by Healthwatch Warrington has highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and young people in Warrington, with GPs struggling to meet demand and reporting a 90% increase in mental health problems.

Some GPs said the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Service (CAMHS) was “overwhelmed” and “not fit for purpose”.
Parents surveyed said the Covid-19 pandemic had seriously affected their children’s behavior and reported new serious mental health disorders, including anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm and depression.
The original report was published by Healthwatch Warrington in 2020. As part of the Healthwatch recommendations, Warrington and Halton CCG commissioned the more detailed report detailing young people’s experiences during lockdown.
A total of 1,342 people submitted information to the report, including 21 general practitioners, 87 teachers, 11 professionals, 384 parents, 554 Key Level 3-5 adolescents, and 26 KS1-2 children via survey data.
Engagement interviews were conducted with 69 parents/carers, 132 young people, 16 teachers/psychiatric teams, and 42 CYP practitioners/professionals.
When asked how the pandemic had affected them, students mostly answered “concerned,” followed by “I stayed positive” and “sad.”

Those who selected ‘Other’ commented that they felt ‘bored’, ‘lonely’, ‘depressed’, ‘stressed’, ‘anxious’, ‘demotivated’, ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘mixed feelings’ by the pandemic .
Students were asked what they have been doing to stay happy and healthy during lockdown. The most popular responses were music, online gaming, social media, walking and exercise.
Of the 554 responses, it was worrying to hear that 33% of children and young people said they felt worried and 27% sad during the Covid period. On a positive note, 28% of children and young people felt positive and the lockdown had a positive impact.
It was good to report that the children and young people were creative in their activities which seems to have kept them engaged and positive.
Of 384 parents surveyed, 60% of parents said the pandemic had impacted their children’s emotional well-being or mental health. Only 16% felt the pandemic had had no impact.
Many parents said the pandemic has impacted their children’s mental health by causing them to be “more anxious,” “reclusive,” “isolated,” “very nervous,” “lonely,” “stressed,” “confident.” more worries” and “more” have become cautious” and have “deep sadness about the future”.
16% of parents said their children have used services, support groups or contact points such as CAMHs, SALT, counseling and school groups during the pandemic – 61% said their experience was ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

12% of parents said their child was referred to a counseling center during the pandemic. Some parents are still waiting for sessions; Some say the sessions they received were helpful but would like more, and others say their child has benefited. A small number of parents said the sessions did not benefit their child.
Unsurprisingly, parents indicated that the Covid-19 pandemic has seriously affected their children’s behavior. Unfortunately, some reported new serious mental health disorders, including anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm and depression.
Of 87 teachers surveyed, a very worrying finding was that 75% of teachers reported that students had hurt themselves and 68% reported that students had suicidal thoughts. Teachers feel that they need additional support to do this.
80% of teachers said they were concerned about the mental health/emotional well-being of their peers. Only 54% said they would feel safe supporting a colleague.
Of the 12 professionals who responded to this survey, 100% of professionals said their service had seen an increase in the number of children and young people with mental health issues since the pandemic began. 83% said this increase was significant.
Meanwhile, GPs saw a 90 percent increase in appointments with mental health issues. Overall, 81% said CAMHS did not meet expectations, compared to 19% who said it met expectations.

Another said: “CAMHS is overwhelmed with crisis presentations and there is no scope to assess/support families before this stage is reached.”
Another said: “Unfortunately, many patients and families do not find CAMHS particularly useful. They did not find the “exercises/strategies/tools” given to them particularly helpful. I am often told that after a risk assessment there was no further input. The service is also very confusing for those who switch to adult services. 16 and 17 year olds tend to be in limbo when it comes to their grooming. As a general practitioner, I am often unsure how to proceed with such patients.”
Feedback from children and young people on GP services revealed that most under-16s wanted to speak to a GP without their parents being present.
“My GP really listened to me and referred me to CAMHS. He also told me to look for support online while I wait for my appointment. I am still waiting and have been waiting for CAMHS for 8 months now. I still hurt myself; I talk a lot with my boyfriend and have discussed self-harm with Papyrus; they were really good.”

A total of 69 parents 1-1 were interviewed as part of the report. Parents raised various concerns about the impact of the lockdown on their children’s mental health, including various issues such as self-harm, eating disorders, ADHD and depression.
One parent said their 17-year-old son had been waiting over 12 months for online CBT through CAMHS, which he couldn’t really engage with. He once spoke over the phone with a male counselor from CAMHS who he got along with and liked. He hoped he would have him for therapy, but said he couldn’t offer him anything and would put him on the support waiting list. She said she found the whole CAMHS process “very confusing”.

Of 384 parents surveyed, 60% of parents said the pandemic had impacted their children’s emotional well-being or mental health. Only 16% felt the pandemic had had no impact.
Responses from Primary Care Network leaders included Dr. Laura Mount, Clinical Director Central and West PCN, who said: “It is very clear that the events of the last few years have only worsened the mental health of our population nationally. An already severely overburdened healthcare system was now having to cope with an unprecedented escalation in demand that it was unable to cope with. The experiences of the patients and my colleagues described in this report are very distressing to read. As PCN we are committed to working with our schemes partners, including specialist providers, agents and NHS England, to explore ways of working together to improve this situation.”

Lydia Thompson, CEO of Healthwatch said: “There is a lot of positive work currently being done by professionals working with children and young people and the Commissioners of Services have future services to meet most of these needs.
“Healthwatch Warrington reports data we received from our research and has incorporated relevant recommendations.
“The Covid-19 lockdown has affected most of our population, adults as well as children and young people. We appreciate that this was a global pandemic; Results will reflect other areas at national level. However, we report on the experiences of Warrington’s children and young people, professionals and parents. Our goal is to partner with clients and providers to inform and help with solutions that move forward.
“The data has highlighted how the education sector (teachers/staff) in particular has been struggling to cope with the pressures and stress of the pandemic in balancing the needs of their students and their own mental well-being.
“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of local groups to people’s well-being and mental health. Many people have found organizations like Homestart, Parents in Mind, youth clubs (EMPOWER, Girls Group) and caregiver groups as a lifeline and a safe space for people to talk and not be judged.
“More investment in local self-help groups could ease the strain on services like CAMHS.
“Of particular concern is the increase in suicidal thoughts and self-harm among young people who participated in our study, the 30% of young people who said they would not speak to anyone when feeling down.
“We would like to give a special thank you to the young people, parents, professionals, agencies and partners who participated in our research.

Lydia added, “Thanks to Warrington and Halton CCG for funding the project.”

To read the full report, please click here to download a copy.

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