As a ‘Mindful Employer’, Porterhouse Medical Group is keen to raise awareness of mental health and has taken positive steps to normalise conversations in the workplace about this issue. In addition, our 2021 charity partner is YoungMinds, whose aim is to ensure all young people can get the mental health support they need, when they need it – no matter what.  This week at Porterhouse, we will be showing our support for YoungMinds by taking part in #HelloYellow by wearing yellow to show young people that they are not alone with their mental health.
The impact of the pandemic on young people in the UK
Living through the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on every area of society. The elderly and vulnerable have been fearful for their lives and isolated from loved ones; people were unable to be with dying family members; whole job sectors were forced to close, with an inevitable economic impact; parents had to juggle work with home schooling; and those living in abusive households became more trapped because of the lockdowns, as well as many other previously unthinkable scenarios. However, it is only in recent months that the impact of the pandemic on the mental well-being of young people has gained attention. Despite the low risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 at a young age, the effect of restrictions and the social and educational sacrifices made by the younger generation could be extremely damaging. 
For those already struggling with their mental health prior to the pandemic, the sudden loss of face-to-face contact with professional support, such as counselling, psychiatric or addiction services, has been hugely detrimental. A recent survey conducted by YoungMinds found that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on young people both with and without pre-existing mental health concerns. Isolation, loneliness, fear, concerns over education and future prospects, lack of routine and bereavement were all pressures expressed by young people. The result has been an increase in anxiety, self-harming, panic attacks and a loss of hope for the future. 
Access to mental health services
As the mother of a young person who has suffered with severe anxiety during the pandemic, I know first-hand the impact that being away from school, friends, extracurricular clubs and family can have on someone who was already coping with anxiety when life was ‘normal’. Teenage years should be about friends, gaining independence and finding out where you might ‘fit’ in the world. Instead, thanks to the pandemic, young people suddenly found themselves in an extremely small and uncertain world. All this happened at a time when the National Health Service (NHS) was overwhelmed dealing with the physical effects of the virus. This meant that access to mental health services was restricted, just at the time when it was needed the most. In a report by YoungMinds, 1 in 6 children aged 5–16 years were identified as having a probable mental health problem in July 2020 – but only a third were able to access NHS care and treatment. 
Safeguarding young people’s mental health for the future
Although it is true that the young are resilient, the sacrifices they have been forced to make because of COVID-19 mean we shouldn’t just expect them to ‘bounce back’ when life returns to normal.
In June 2021, the UK government announced an extra £40 million to help address the impact that COVID-19 has had on children and young people’s mental health and to enhance mental health services across the country.  This funding is in addition to the significant funding already committed to mental health services as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, which intends to see a further 345,000 children and young people able to access mental health support by 2023/2024. 
Underfunding of mental health services has been a long-standing issue, with the average Clinical Commissioning Group (groups of general practices which come together in each area to commission the best services for their patients and population) only spending 1% of its budget on mental health for the young.  Perhaps, as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, one positive is that the crisis has highlighted the importance of nurturing the mental health of the next generation.
Inevitably, these changes will all take time, making organisations like YoungMinds even more vital to ensure young people have access to help when they need it and feel they matter. So, this year on World Mental Health Day join us by wearing yellow and help make a positive difference to the lives of young people. #HelloYellow
A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a physical one. You will not be wasting anyone’s time.
If you need help in a mental health crisis the NHS urgent mental health helpline provides 24-hour advice and support for you or someone you care for. Please follow this link to find a local NHS urgent mental health helpline in England
Call 999 or go to A&E now if:
• Someone’s life is at risk- for example they have seriously injured themselves or taken an overdose
• You do not think you can keep yourself or someone else safe
Free listening and support services are also available which offer confidential advice from trained volunteers
• YoungMinds Text YM to 85258 for free 24/7 support
• Samaritans- Call 116-123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a reply within 24 hours
The information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content is for general information purposes only. Always seek guidance from your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.
1. YoungMinds. You Matter: Our strategy for 2020-23. Available at: https://www.youngminds.org.uk/about-us/our-strategy/. Accessed October 2021.
2. British Science Association. The forgotten generation: The impacts of COVID-19 on young people. Available at: https://www.britishscienceassociation.org/news/the-forgotten-generation-the-impacts-of-covid-19-on-young-people. Accessed October 2021.
3. YoungMinds. The impact of Covid-19 on young people with mental health needs. Available at: https://www.youngminds.org.uk/about-us/reports-and-impact/coronavirus-impact-on-young-people-with-mental-health-needs/. Accessed October 2021.
4. NHS funding boost for young peoples’ mental health. Available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/2021/06/funding-boost-for-young-peoples-mental-health-services/. Accessed October 2021.
5. National Health Service. News: Funding boost for young people’s mental health services. Available at: https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/areas-of-work/mental-health/children-and-young-peoples-mental-health/. Accessed October 2021.
6. The Children’s Commissioner’s Office. Damage to children’s mental health caused by Covid crisis could last for years without a large-scale increase for children’s mental health services. Available at: https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/2021/01/28/damage-to-childrens-mental-health-caused-by-covid-crisis-could-last-for-years-without-a-large-scale-increase-for-childrens-mental-health-services/. Accessed October 2021.
Author: Suzanne Brunt BM | Medical Writer | Porterhouse Medical