NHS in Leeds encourages young people to talk about mental health as Childline says it is a "significant" concern

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The NHS is encouraging young people in Leeds to speak to others about how they’re feeling and seek out help if they need it for Children’s Mental Health Week.

The NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group is encouraging young people to have open conversations about their wellbeing and to reach out for help when they need it - even if they don't feel comfortable doing it - as more evidence emerges of the effects that the pandemic is having on all ages from toddlers to teenagers.

Dr Jane Mischenko, lead commissioner for children and maternity said: “The current lockdown is very difficult for many parents, children and young people. Children’s time with friends and extended family has been significantly reduced and many may be feeling low or worried during this time. Little ones may be missing playing with their friends and older ones may be anxious about their education and the affect they can see the pandemic is having on friends and families.

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"When children and young people have existing mental health issues, like anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders, these can be made worse by anxiety about coronavirus and the changes it has made to their lives.

Young people are feeling increasingly isolated and lonely during a third lockdown.Young people are feeling increasingly isolated and lonely during a third lockdown.
Young people are feeling increasingly isolated and lonely during a third lockdown.

“I encourage children and young people to regularly speak about how they’re feeling, whether it be within the family, to a friend, a teacher, or if concerned with a health professional. Adults such as parents and teachers can support this too."

She also referred to the MindMate website (www.mindmate.org.uk/) which has a wealth of resources that young people and parents can use for support and advice, as well as directing them to local services.

Meanwhile, Childline in Leeds says there are "significant concerns" for the well-being of young people.

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The charity confirmed that since the first lockdown in March 2020, Childline has delivered 61,398 counselling sessions about mental and emotional health. From April to January of this year 9,240 counselling sessions were based upon self harm; 20,789 were on suicidal thoughts and feelings; 5,040 on school and education problems and 3,379 to do with bereavement.

Darren Worth, Childline team manager in Leeds said: "I think what's been increasingly obvious as the various stages of lockdown has gone on is just how much impact lockdown has on young people's mental health and mental wellbeing and how significant a concern it is for so many young people.

"I anticipated that some young people would find it challenging and difficult but I think it's important that we remember that young people are just people and if you consider the sort of feelings that we might have as adults about lockdown, with a kind of adult understanding and the ability to inform ourselves, for young people it's so challenging for them because they are kind of thrust into this situation that no-one really knows how to manage, if we are honest with ourselves.

"Life has changed. I know for so many young people so much of their world is built around their friendship group so the sudden isolation from that, they don't get that emotional nourishment from their friends."

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He added that some youngsters have become "trapped" in abusive family situations and Childline is one of the few places they can air that.

Mr Worth explained: "If some are being abused or for some there are significant issues in the family and these young people are effectively trapped in that situation and can't have the respite or escape that they would ordinarily have. It speaks to the impact of services like Childline who are there and able just to listen to the young people on their own terms. We give them somewhere to put that stuff and I think it's just so crucial."

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