Support is becoming increasingly scarce
An alliance of leading providers of specialist children’s services has warned of a child mental health emergency driven by increasing energy costs.
With inflation, energy costs and shopping bills now outstripping wage levels, this has replaced covid and lockdown restrictions as the primary cause of poor mental health for children and young people
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), has called for an urgent co-ordinated response by both the Scottish and UK governments to address the crisis and avoid a potential “lost generation” of children and young people with mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression and self-harm. It has also called for greatly increased investment in mental health services.
Poverty is a major contributor to mental ill health, states the coalition, and children living in low-income households are three times more likely to suffer mental health problems than their more affluent peers. So more young people will experience worse mental health as a result of the current cost-of-living crisis and as families fall behind with their bills, causing increased anxiety.
Even before the pandemic, cases of poor mental health were at unprecedented levels with services in crisis, and there are a growing number of vulnerable children who cannot access adequate support.
The pandemic and cost-of-living crisis have exacerbated this, with more children and young people driven into poverty, with the resulting impact on their mental health. This has led to unprecedented demand and backlogs, with services struggling to keep up.
A spokesperson for the SCSC said: “Millions of our children and young are at breaking point, with stress and anxiety reaching alarming levels because of the effect of the cost-of-living crisis.
"Since the pandemic, referrals have increased and the cost-of-living crisis is only going to make it worse, creating a potential lost generation of vulnerable children and young people..
"If we don't give young people the support they need, when they need it, the consequences can be catastrophic.
“By minimising the drivers of mental health problems - such as poverty - we can reduce the impact on services and we would urge the Scottish Government and UK Government to work together and address this.”
Figures published by Public Health Scotland in June indicate that over the quarter covering January to March 2022, 9,672 children and young people were referred to CAMHS for treatment, a staggering 22.4 per cent increase in numbers from the same quarter of the previous year when the equivalent figure was 7,902. The cost-of-living crisis is set to further worsen this.
At the end of March 2022, a total of 1,322 children and young people had been waiting for over a year for treatment.