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Record 420,000 children are now being treated by the NHS for mental health problems every month


A record number of children are now being treated for mental health problems on the NHS, according to figures.

Latest NHS figures reveal 420,000 under-18s were either undergoing treatment or waiting to start in February.

This is a 54 per cent rise in the number of young people seeking help compared to the same time in 2020, before the pandemic.

Experts say Covid has exacerbated mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and self-harm among children. NHS services may be overwhelmed by rising demand for help, campaigners fear. 

Virus restrictions and school closures damaged the mental health of UK children by disrupting their routines and decreasing social contact with friends.

This February's total of 420,314 'open referrals' for NHS mental health for under-18s is the highest since records began in 2016.

The figure is a 147,853 rise compared to pre-pandemic figures and has grown by 80,096 in the last year alone.

There are also concerns a number of young Britons suffering from poor mental health are not getting the help they need because they don't meet the threshold to get help from the NHS.

A survey of just over 1,000 GPs last month by charity stem4 found some children, even those who are self-harming, are not considered sick enough to get treatment. 

In one case, a crisis team in Wales would not immediately assess the mental health of an actively suicidal child, who had been stopped from jumping off a building earlier that day, unless the GP made a written referral. 

The shocking state of NHS child and adolescent mental health services (CAMS) has long been criticised, with too many children waiting too long to get help.

In February, NHS statistics revealed 37 per cent of those on waiting lists in 2020/21 were yet to start treatment by the end of the financial year.

A postcode lottery for access to treatment also exists, with children in some parts of the country waiting an average of just six days, while others were forced to wait 81.