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Child referrals for mental health care in England up 39% in a year

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The number of children in England needing treatment for serious mental health problems has risen by 39% in a year, official data shows.

Experts say the pandemic, social inequality, austerity and online harm are all fuelling a crisis in which NHS mental health treatment referrals for under-18s have increased to more than 1.1m in 2021-22.

In 2020-21 – the first year of the pandemic – the figure was 839,570, while in 2019-20 there were 850,741 referrals, according to analysis of official figures by the PA Media.

The figures include children who are suicidal, self-harming, suffering serious depression or anxiety, and those with eating disorders.

Dr Elaine Lockhart, chair of the child and adolescent psychiatry faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said the rise in referrals reflected a “whole range” of illnesses.

She said “specialist services are needing to respond to the most urgent and the most unwell”, including young people suffering from psychosis, suicidal thoughts and severe anxiety disorder.

Lockhart said targets for seeing children urgently with eating disorders were sliding “completely” and that more staff were needed.

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Source: The Guardian, 3 January 2023

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