Supporting children through mental health struggles

Tuesday 16 March 2021
Smiling teenage girl

A year into the pandemic, we're seeing demand for children's mental health support skyrocket. Find out what Action for Children is doing to help with services like Parent Talk and the Blues Programme

The mental health burden of the pandemic on children and their families has been immense.

Thanks to our frontline staff and services, Action for Children has continued to be a vital lifeline for the children and families we support.

Hearing from our frontline staff

In our most recent staff survey, 100% of Action for Children key workers said that they’ve seen signs of depression, isolation, anxiety or sadness among children and their parents/carers.

Workers describing how many parents told them of children feeling anxious to go outside, of bringing the virus home to their families, and of returning to school after being isolated from friends.

One of our service workers said, “A year is a long time in a child’s life. There has been a lot of uncertainty and insecurity and young people have anxious feelings around what is going to happen in future. They have gone without the support from adults around them to reassuring them on how to deal with it.

"Young people will take that into their future adult life and have those fears (feeling anxious all of time) which will impact on their ability to form relationships, education and careers.”

Children are reluctant to go outside- they are scared. Some don’t even know what they are scared of. I am so scared of the long-term effects of this.

Kirsty, Action for Children’s Bath West Children’s Centre

Action for Children frontline staff have continued to be a vital lifeline for children and families through the pandemic. They’ve been offering face-to-face support (within Government’s guidelines) as well as providing online and remote help.

Parent Talk

Our Parent Talk service provides parenting information and advice for parents of children aged 0-19.

We’ve seen a three-fold increase in people using this service year on year.  From 2019 to 2020, the average length of a support session with one of our parenting coaches increased from 15 minutes to 30-40 minutes.

We've also had an increase in contacts from parents who are worried about their children’s mental health. One in four of our Parent Talk support sessions flag a serious concern for a child’s wellbeing, including issues like self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

The Blues Programme

The Blues Programme is our wellbeing programme for young people aged 13-19. Over six weeks, it teaches emotional resilience, and reduces low mood and anxious thoughts.

Since the pandemic hit, this service is needed more than ever.

Needed by children like Esther, 15, who was struggling with exam stress so bad she forgot to eat. She sought out support from Action for Children’s Blues Programme and has been using the mental wellbeing coping strategies she learned to cope during the lockdown.

“I didn’t realise others felt the way I did either, it made feel normal and that I wasn’t going crazy. It was a safe space where we could talk about anything that was worrying us that week.” - Esther, 15

So far, we’ve delivered The Blues Programme in over 150 schools, to more than 5,500 young people.

The urgent need for Government action

Two years on from the first national lockdown, mental health is now a much bigger worry for children. In 2019, less than a third (29%) of children saw their own mental health as an issue in 2019. This has grown to 42% in 2022.

Research on the early years found that 37% of parents expect that the pandemic will negatively affect their children’s long-term mental wellbeing.

In the recovery from the pandemic, early interventions to help children with their mental wellbeing will be more important than ever. We’re calling on the Government to act urgently to ensure that:

  • There's enough funding in the health visiting system to make sure any mental health needs emerging from the pandemic can be spotted
  • Children's needs are put front and centre in the proposed restructure of Public Health England
  • Children’s centres and family hubs get the funds they need to support children under five.

We need to do more to help children recover from the trauma of the past year. That means we must put children - and their mental health - first in the recovery.

Help us do more

With your help, we can be a vital lifeline for even more UK children.

We can make sure they have the basics, like hot meals and proper winter clothes. And we could offer emergency support to keep homes warm and help families pay the bills.

You can make a difference in 2023

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