Where can your child get mental health support online during lockdown?
The government has announced a second UK lockdown until at least December 2nd. Even though a decision has been made to keep schools open during this time, parents may still be concerned about the effect it will have on their child’s mental health – whether or not they have experienced problems before.
Research from YoungMinds suggests that 32 per cent of young people with a history of mental health problems felt that the pandemic had made their mental health much worse, and 51 per cent said that it had made it a bit worse.
So how can you continue to support your child’s emotional wellbeing during this time of uncertainty?
How much of an effect is COVID-19 having on children and young people’s mental health?
The anxiety generated by coronavirus is substantial. One of the leading mental health charities, Mind, has seen an influx in people contacting them regarding the impact of coronavirus and lockdown, while the charity Beat Eating Disorders has seen a 30 per cent increase in demand for its Helpline services.
Richard Crellin, Policy and Research Manager (Mental Health and Wellbeing) at The Children’s Society, says: “For young people, whether already living with mental health conditions or not, it is a very triggering time.
“The news is full of scary statistics and families are feeling the pressure more than ever, so it is entirely understandable that many people are feeling fraught.”
What can you do if you are worried your child is struggling with their mental health as a result of COVID-19?
If your child had no pre-existing mental health condition prior to COVID-19, but you are worried about their general emotional wellbeing, there are several places you can find advice:
Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. It runs an Infoline which offers information and advice on mental health; you can call on 0300 123 3393, text on 86463 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It also has a page dedicated to coronavirus and mental health, which includes information for older children and teens who are worried about coronavirus, and advice for how you can support your teen as the pandemic continues.
The Children’s Society works towards directly improving the lives of vulnerable children and young people and has a range of resources that could be helpful during the pandemic.
Crellin says, “Here at The Children’s Society we know that a situation like this means young people may need support in new and different ways. We have created the Covid-19 mental health and wellbeing hub on our website that has detailed information on looking after yourself at this time.”
YoungMinds is one of the UK’s leading charities fighting for children and young people’s mental health. It operates a Parents Helpline on 0808 802 5544, and you can also email using this contact form.
Your child can visit its dedicated coronavirus and mental health page for advice and signposting, including information on looking after your mental health whilst self-isolating and self-care tips. YoungMinds also has a blog where your child can hear from other young people living through the pandemic.
Emerging Minds is a research network that aims to reduce the prevalence of mental health problems in children and young people.
It has a useful advice sheet for parents and carers on supporting children and young people with worries about coronavirus. Parents and carers also have access to a webinar series in collaboration with The Mental Elf, which focuses on supporting children and young people’s mental health during the pandemic.
Childline is a free counselling service for children and young people aged 19 or under.
Your child can call their helpline on 0800 1111 to speak to a trained counsellor, or they can use its ‘1-2-1’ chat on their website if they don’t feel as though they can talk over the phone. They can also send an email from their ‘Childline locker’, which Childline endeavours to reply to within 24 hours. They must be logged into their Childline account in order to use the 1-2-1 chat service, and email.
Childline also offers plenty of other resources, including advice on distinguishing fake news and what to do if you’re worried about coronavirus. Your child also has access to message boards where they can find support from others, and can use a mood journal to log how they’re feeling. You can read Childline’s guidance on its message boards here.
Young people can currently speak to a counsellor online or on the phone from from 7:30am – 3:30am, seven days a week.
The Mix is one of the UK’s leading support services for young people under 25.
Your child can access useful wellbeing guidance on its website, including how to support others during the pandemic, and dealing with coronavirus anxiety. If you have a young person at university or living away from home, The Mix also has information tenancy rights and financial guides, to offer a little clarity during this confusing period.
What if your child has a pre-existing mental health condition and you’re worried COVID-19 is affecting their recovery?
For children and young people who already have a suspected or diagnosed mental health condition, you may be worried the anxiety generated by COVID-19 is causing a backslide in their referral or recovery.
We’ve answered some of the questions you may have to offer a little clarity.
My child is referred under CAMHS – are they still operating?
The NHS’ Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, or CAMHS, vary by region, but most are still providing ongoing support and treatment for existing cases. You can search for your local CAMHS using the NHS website. From there, you should be able to find more information about what support is available to you.
What can you do if your child has an eating disorder and COVID-19 is disrupting their recovery?
Children and young people suffering with an eating disorder may be particularly affected by the pandemic. They may have concerns around how strong their immune system will be and may struggle with disrupted routines.
Beat Eating Disorders has a dedicated page with advice for those who may be suffering as a result of the coronavirus, as well as a page for those supporting someone with an eating disorder during these extraordinary circumstances.
Your child can also access ‘The Sanctuary’, an online group created in response to coronavirus and the anxieties it could cause.
Its Helpline, Studentline and Youthline are all operating as normal.
Will COVID-19 have a lasting impact on my child’s mental health?
It is too early to know what impact the coronavirus will have on mental health. It is clear, however, that the pandemic is creating a lot of anxiety and worry in young people.
Not all is lost, though. Research from YoungMinds suggests that certain activities are beneficial for maintaining good mental health during lockdown. Video calls with friends, watching television and films, exercise, and learning new skills were all reported as ‘helpful’ activities for mental health.
Weatherley says: “If they are old enough, try to encourage them to do what they can to maintain their own wellbeing. Creating a new routine during this period of change is important and can help them to feel more secure. Try to encourage them to include activities with physical exercise in their routine and to stay virtually connected with friends and family.
Crellin concludes, “In terms of long-term impact on mental health, it is too soon to say right now, but we know that the longer this goes on the more impact it will have on the mental wellbeing of children and young people, which is why it is vital to seek help when needed.”
The NSPCC helpline (0808 800 5000) offers advice and support from professional counsellors if you are worried about a child.
It also has a page for parents and carers on family support during the pandemic, including advice on talking to children about the coronavirus and supporting SEND children.
The University of Reading is offering a two week online course for young people whose mental health has been affected by COVID-19. You can explore practical ways to help your child manage their mood and maintain healthy habits during the pandemic.
It's completely free and includes articles, videos and quizzes to guide your learning.
NHS mental health hub
The NHS is offering mental health and wellbeing advice on its website.
Official government guidance
The government has offered advice for parents and carers on supporting children and young people’s mental health during the pandemic.
If you believe a child is in immediate danger, call 999.
Mind and The Children's Society contributed to this article