Mental health problems in Leeds young people were worsened during lockdowns, new report claims

Children with anxiety, eating and obsessive compulsive disorders in Leeds saw a worsening of their symptoms during Covid-19 lockdown, a draft report published this week has claimed.

The document, produced by Leeds City Council officers, follows an inquiry into how the pandemic was affecting children and young people, and also claims mental health support workers have seen an increase in calls during the past 18 months – and there are worries it could increase waiting times for mental health services.

It also suggested that many older young people felt a “lack of closure” upon leaving school and found it difficult to transition to college or higher education.

Members of Leeds City Council’s Children and Families Scrutiny Board are expected to discuss the paper at a meeting next week.

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted further the mental health of young people says a new report.

It stated: “Since the beginning of the pandemic, mental health coordinators within the early help hubs have seen a high rise in anxiety across the board, but for those shielding this has brought added pressures particularly in relation to isolation, the pressures of home schooling and worries about contracting the virus.”

It added that people living in poverty found it more difficult to access services as this often needed to be done online, stating: “Issues surrounding digital exclusion and poverty were also highlighted as common themes picked up by the work of the coordinators, which had been further compounded by the pandemic as some individuals have lacked confidence in accessing online services, particularly if English is a second language, and so are choosing to wait until the end of lockdown before they access the appropriate services.

“This could therefore compound waiting lists and lead to delays in mental health needs being supported early.”

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Other studies reported that calls to help lines had significantly increased, with services reporting that mental health of young people has deteriorated due to school closures and not being able to access mental health support.

The council report added: “The experience in Leeds had also mirrored these concerns, with youth workers hearing from young people that social distancing, which had led to their growing sense of isolation, had compounded and increased the issues they were facing.”

It added that students have been “increasingly concerned” about the lack of certainty and clarity over how they will be assessed this academic year.

The report stated: “It was highlighted that young people had also felt that they had missed out on key experiences and milestones in their adolescence due to school closures, such as school leaver celebrations and work experience, as well as more regular social activities such as after school clubs.

“Young people have also reported feeling a lack of closure on the last academic year – for example not having the chance to say a proper goodbye to school friends and staff before they transitioned to college.”

It recommended that work needed to be done to fill gaps left by “lost learning” over the past year, and for schools to offer extra support to SEND and vulnerable learners.

The report will be discussed by the scrutiny board at a meeting on Wednesday, September 8.