Thousands of children in contact with mental health services in Dorset

THOUSANDS of children and young people have come into contact with mental health services in Dorset over the past year, according to new figures.

Children’s mental health charity YoungMinds said the figures were “heartbreaking”, especially as students receive grades in A-level and GCSE exams.

The charity said increasing pressure at school and the impact of closures during the coronavirus pandemic has affected young people’s mental health, leading to large numbers of children needing support.

Figures from NHS Digital show that 6,220 children and young people had at least one contact with mental health services in the NHS Dorset CCG area in the 12 months to May.

Although that figure was up from 6,160 in April, it was down 3% from 6,380 in July last year when local figures were first recorded.

Figures also show that 3,680 children and young people in Dorset were still in contact with mental health services at the end of May, compared to 3,620 in the same month last year.

Olly Parker, Head of External Affairs at YoungMinds, said: “The pandemic has certainly made the mental health crisis for young people worse, with huge disruption to student education, many of whom also faced multiple pressures like difficult family environments, bereavement and other trauma.”

Mr Parker also said schools lacked the resources to support the well-being of their students, who had been feeling particularly anxious about exams since returning to school after the pandemic.

The Department of Health and Social Care has said supporting children’s mental health is a “major priority” and has invested £79million in 2021-22 to expand services to support more than 22,000 children and young people.

A spokesperson added that it was expanding mental health support teams to cover 3million pupils by 2024 and increasing investment in services by at least £2.3billion a year from here 2024.

In Dorset, some 3,875 children were waiting to be seen at the end of May after being referred by a GP or other healthcare professional.

Mr Parker said: “The reality is that month after month we are seeing devastating new records of young people struggling to get treatment and support for their mental health, and month after month we are waiting for the government to act and put end to this the worsening of the crisis.”

He said the government must urgently equip the NHS to deal with growing mental health pressures and come up with a mental health plan that “really focuses on young people”.

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