As schools went back after the UK’s third national lockdown, we looked at what effect the pandemic has had on children’s mental health on the front cover of the Spring edition of Nursing in Practice.

Effect the pandemic on children’s mental health

Nurses, particularly healthcare visitors and school nurses, have seen rising cases of mental health issues among young people who have struggled with being cut off from routine and social interaction with peers.

In the first six months of the pandemic last year there was a 27% rise in the number of children reported as killed or seriously harmed in England. The Children’s Society charity believes this is likely related to the pandemic as children were trapped in houses with their abusers.

Mental health issues for young people, such as eating disorders and suicidal thoughts, became worse and it was harder for them to access services, such as school nurses, who would normally help them.

The pandemic also seems to have increased the proportion of children with mental health issues. NHS Digital statistics show one in six children had a probable mental health condition in July 2020 compared to one in nine in 2017.   

However, we also reflected on the amazing work being done by healthcare professionals to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on young people.

School nurses have been doing ‘walk and talk’ sessions – talking outside to the young people while going for a walk – which enables them to see the young people face to face.

Whilst sometimes there are issues with technology, such as freezing when someone is talking about a sensitive issue, nurses have also used it to great effect. One even managed to stop a young person committing suicide through texting.  

We reported the Government allocated £79m of funding for children’s mental health in March. Although, charities have said this is not enough. The RCN trade union, charities and Nursing in Practice called for a school nurse in every school to avoid children suffering mental health issues into the future.

Although, this would likely require a massive recruitment drive as figures show there has been a 30% drop in the numbers of school nurses in England since 2010.