In a new Policy Briefing, 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.'