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Keir Starmer: Mental health scars of virus mustn’t blight a generation

Sophia Sleigh and Anna Davis
·2-min read
<p>Sir Keir said: “The hidden cost of this pandemic on young people’s mental health has been devastating. I applaud the Evening Standard for shining a light on this crisis and I urge ministers to respond with urgency.

Sir Keir said: “The hidden cost of this pandemic on young people’s mental health has been devastating. I applaud the Evening Standard for shining a light on this crisis and I urge ministers to respond with urgency.

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Sir Keir Starmer today urged ministers to urgently address the “devastating” mental health crisis affecting children as MPs praised the Standard for shining a light on the issue.

The Labour leader called on the Government to ramp up mental health support as a priority to ensure the pandemic does not do “lasting damage to an entire generation”.

Meanwhile, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told the Standard: “It is very important that we recognise the additional pressures children and young people face and continue prioritising their well-being.”

Sir Keir’s comments come after our investigation revealed hundreds of thousands of children and adolescents who had no diagnosable mental health problems before the pandemic will need mental health support in 2021 as a consequence of the crisis.

Sir Keir said: “The hidden cost of this pandemic on young people’s mental health has been devastating. I applaud the Evening Standard for shining a light on this crisis and I urge ministers to respond with urgency. Even before the pandemic, mental health support for young people was inadequate. During the crisis, Government has been too slow to ensure people can access support.

“We must ramp up support and ensure this pandemic doesn’t do lasting damage to a generation.”

The Centre for Mental Health says that a new cohort of 500,000 previously healthy children will require mental health support.

Only about 25 per cent of young people with diagnosable mental health problems get the care they need on the NHS with 75 per cent untreated. Robert Halfon, chairman of the Commons education committee, backed our investigation and called for mental health counsellors to go into schools.

He said: “We could face an epidemic of educational poverty, child mental health and well-being crises.”

Tory MP Andrea Leadsom, who is leading a review on improving health outcomes of young children, said: “Mental health difficulties will be a long-term consequence of the pandemic so it’s important to see the Standard spotlighting this.”

The Department for Education points out that millions have been provided to mental health charities over the past months and NHS mental health trusts.

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