The researchers have outlined 14 steps that schools, mental health services and policymakers can take to help children and young people whose mental health has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The research team has set out potential solutions that can be put into place within schools, mental health services, and the wider policy and practice environment. They suggest:
- Equipping school staff to normalise conversations about mental health to identify who needs help
- Taking a ‘whole school approach’ to children’s mental health that involves parents, carers, public health teams, governors and teachers.
- Maintaining or increasing financial support of families facing hardship caused or exacerbated by the pandemic
- Reforming the benefit system and universal credit, and exploring the feasibility of implementing a guaranteed income scheme
- Reviewing digital education tools and investing in those that have improved children’s experience of education
- Bridging the digital divide by providing children with internet access and IT equipment needed for their education.
- Allowing some children to have a gradual return to conventional learning through a hybrid model
- Strengthening the provision of early interventions and greater support at times of transition
- Developing open access mental health services for young people up to the age of 25
- Assessing the impact of changes, such as more online mental health services during the pandemic
- Improving links between schools and families
- Investing sufficient resources in special education, support care and mental health funding
- Providing COVID-19-related mental health resources for those who have experienced trauma and loss.
Professor Cathy Creswell, Director, UKRI Emerging Minds Network and Professor of Developmental Clinical Psychology, University of Oxford, said:
'In seeking to limit the impacts of the pandemic on young people and provide much needed supports, we need a multi-pronged approach that incorporates actions in each of these settings. This is so that we can foster the environments in which young people can thrive – in communities, in schools, and at home – and provide the mental health care that an increasing number of young people need.'