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Ministers urged to prioritise mental health as survey reveals 1.1m teens felt unhappy during lockdown

One in five teenagers said they felt unhappy with their lives in lockdown (PA)

3 min read

Labour has backed calls for “immediate mental health support” for young people after a survey revealed 1.1 million teens reported feeling unhappy with their lives during lockdown.

As part of a report into children’s wellbeing at the height of the pandemic, The Children’s Society also found that half of parents feared the pandemic would harm their children’s happiness within the next year.

The charity is now calling on the Government to introduce regular measurements of young people’s wellbeing and dedicated funding to improve mental health in children. 

Commenting on the findings, Labour's Shadow Minister for Young People Cat Smith said: “The Government must address the growing mental health crisis faced by so many young people during Covid-19. 

“This new report reveals the extent that parents anticipate long term negative impacts on their children’s happiness.”

She added: “Whilst the Government’s focus on jobs and upskilling young people is welcome, this cannot come at the expense of vital mental health and wellbeing services. 

“The Government must take the Children Society’s recommendations seriously and provide immediate mental health support to young people and families who need it."

According to the survey of 2,000 young people — all aged between 10 and 17 — one in five (18%) said they felt unhappy with their lives, a marked increase on the five-year peak of 13% prior to the pandemic.

Girls were also found to be struggling more than their male peers in regards to school closures, exam cancellations and not being able to see friends. 

And 89% of the children survey said they were worried to some extend about coronavirus in general.

Chief executive at The Children’s Society Mark Russell said: “Children’s lives have been turned upside down by the coronavirus crisis and these worrying findings suggest it has already harmed the happiness and well-being of many young people.

“They have been left unable to attend school or see friends and relatives, while at the same time being trapped at home with parents and siblings who may have their own worries and anxieties about the situation.

“Even before the pandemic, children’s happiness with life was at its lowest for a decade and we know there is a link between low well-being and mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

And he added: “Urgent action is needed now as we recover from coronavirus to reset how we support children’s well-being and prevent this crisis harming a whole generation of young people.

“That must mean introducing measurement of children’s well-being, support as they return to school, a properly funded early intervention strategy and better financial support for low-income families.”

Also responding to the survey, Andrew Fellowes, Associate Head of Policy at the NSPCC, said: “This research shows the very real impact that the coronavirus lockdown is having on children today and exposes why young people’s recovery needs to be prioritised alongside health and the economy.

“We know from calls to Childline that more, and often younger, children are struggling with their emotional wellbeing while our Helpline has seen a surge in concerns about young people facing abuse behind closed doors.

He agreed that "an ambitious recovery plan" was needed to prevent "generation of children becoming the long-term victims of the pandemic".

"This must include equipping teachers with the tools to support pupils when they return to school and ensuring children’s services have the capacity to deal with a likely surge in young people needing help," Mr Fellowes added. 

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