GPs and health professionals are asking for help in spreading the word that children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing services are #HereForYou in Kent and Medway.
They have joined NHS England’s top doctor for children and young people’s mental health in urging parents to be alert to signs of anxiety, distress or low mood in their children, encouraging them to seek help.
Professor Prathiba Chitsabesan, NHS England Associate National Clinical Director for Children and Young People’s Mental Health, said: “Children and young people may be experiencing a variety of feelings in response to the coronavirus pandemic, including anxiety, distress and low mood, and it is important to understand that these are normal responses to an abnormal situation.”
Lockdown has increased pressure on many mums, dads and their children, with young people unable to see friends.
This month’s (June) return to school for some children may also be causing anxiety for pupils heading back to the classroom after months away, and those who would like to return but remain stuck at home, may be feeling left out or isolated.
Dr Navin Kumta, Clinical Chair of NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Lockdown may be easing but it continues to be a challenging time and the return to school may be causing new difficulties or making existing issues worse.”
Schools across Kent and Medway have been sharing information via social media about children and young people’s online mental wellbeing services available in the county.
The CCG, NHS provider trusts and local authorities are also sharing information via their social media channels of the services available.
Kent and Medway’s health commissioners are appealing for residents to join them and help spread the word about the support available for children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Dr Kumta added: “There are a number of services, online support communities and apps available that have been specially commissioned to support children and young people here in Kent and Medway with their mental wellbeing.
“Please do look out for details about them on your child’s school social media channels and if you feel they are appropriate, highlight them to your son or daughter.
“If you are already a follower of any of the local NHS organisations or councils here in Kent and Medway and you spot the posts, please do share them and help us get the word out about the help and support services available.
“These services are here for you and your families. Please help us help you by getting in touch.”
If you are concerned about the mental health of a child or young person in Kent and Medway and are not sure what extra help is needed, you can call the Single Point of Access (SPA) on 0800 0011 3474. This service is there to help find the most appropriate response to your concerns.
Alternatively, if your child is aged four-to-19 and struggling with their emotional health, you can access support from the Kent Child Health Children and Young People’s Counselling Service. Go to www.kentcht.nhs.uk/school-health.
The Release the Pressure text service provides 24-hour mental health crisis support, text “Kent” or “Medway” (depending on where you live) to 85258.
Online support for mental wellbeing is available via:
- KOOTH - Aged between 10-16 in Kent and 11-25 in Medway and need mental health support? Kooth is #HereForYou. Please visit www.kooth.com to register for our supportive online community where we have lots of guided support courses and resources for you.
- Big White Wall provides mental health support for young people aged 16-18 in Kent and Medway. Visit www.bigwhitewall.com to access the supportive online community which includes lots of guided support course and resources.
- Mood Spark - provides mental health support to young people in Kent and their website is full of useful resources and service information for parents and teachers too: www.kentresiliencehub.org.uk
- ChatHealth - If your child is aged 11-19 years old and struggling with their emotions, they can text Chathealth to 07520 618850 for mental health support and to find out a number of ways to help them, or visit www.kentyouthhealth.nhs.uk.
Three bulletins with resources to support parents, carers, schools, colleges, children and young people during the Covid19 pandemic have also been published and are available to download here.
NHS England has issued advice on what parents should look out for and steps they can take to look after their child’s mental health, based on advice from clinicians and first-hand experience from patients and parents.
Signs that parents should look out for include:
- You might find they are more upset or find it hard to manage their emotions
- They may appear anxious or distressed
- Increasing trouble with sleeping and eating
- Appearing low in mood, withdrawn or tearful
- Reporting worried or negative thoughts about themselves or their future
- For younger children, there may be more bed wetting.
If you are a parent who is worried about your child’s mental health, you can help by:
- making time to talk to your child
- allowing your child to talk about their feelings
- trying to understand their problems and provide reassurance that you have heard them and are there to help
- helping your child do positive activities
- trying to keep a routine over the next few weeks
- looking after your own mental health.
Contact NHS 111 online or a GP immediately if you notice any physical injuries on a child, such as deep cuts or burns.
Claire Murdoch, NHS England National Mental Health Director said: “We know that children and young people’s lives have been disrupted during these uncertain times, and some may be suffering from anxiety as schools reopen.
“The NHS is open for business as usual and has adapted to the coronavirus crisis through offering flexible options including phone and video consultations and online support.”
Children and young people with autism, learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may find the impact of coronavirus particularly difficult to manage.
It is important to explain change and manage any anxiety and distress they may be experiencing.
The National Autistic Society has helpful advice on their website on how to deal with this uncertain time with the coronavirus.
Locally, before Covid-19, NHS and Kent County Council produced: A handbook for families: Information on autism and ADHD in children that provides information and tips for parents on how to support children and young people with autism and ADHD. It was produced with families in the Canterbury area and has now been sent to every family in Kent who have children on the waiting list for an assessment of autism or ADHD.
There are also videos produced by the CCG featuring Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr Rachel Hussey, from North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT).
In the videos, Dr Hussey, NELFT’s Clinical Lead in Kent (Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services) and Medway (Medway Young Persons' Wellbeing Service) provides tips on helping children with different issues related to autism and ADHD. Watch the videos:
Dr Hussey said: “Our children and young people’s mental health services have remained open in Kent during lockdown and we have been supporting and caring for our patients during what is a very worrying time.
“They may feel more worried and anxious than they usually do, or struggling to sleep or feeling low. These are ordinary feelings to have about a very extraordinary situation, but the NHS is open and we are here to help anyone who needs us.
“If you are concerned about a child or young person’s mental health, please contact our Single Point of Access number 0800 011 3474 and our specially trained clinicians will be able to help you.”
Comprehensive information on services available in Kent and Medway for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities is available via the Local Offer pages on Kent County Council and Medway Council’s websites.