The last 12 months have seen the impact Coronavirus is set to have questioned regularly. It can be measured in ICU overcapacity, case numbers, and excess deaths.However, it is clear that there is much more to this story. Another very real and tangible impact that the Tories’ terrible response to this crisis has caused is a surge in serious mental health problems for young people.
The government claims they are doing their best, but statistics and reports show that they are dragging their feet.
In an article from BBC News titled “Coronavirus doctor’s diary”, a doctor in Bradford noted that children with serious mental health problems are showing up at A&E once or twice a day when last year it stood at once or twice a week.
This is not isolated to one hospital. Hospital admissions as a result of self harm amongst children steadily rose to 900 per 100,000 admissions in 2018/19. The current figure for 2020/21 is likely to be higher. He also encountered children as young as 10 self-harming, overdosing, or attempting suicide.
The truth is, the pandemic has exacerbated all problems that exist under capitalism. This includes mental health, which is now affecting children at younger ages than ever seen before.
Early intervention is the key to helping children break the cycle of bad mental health but with services stretched to breaking point and chronically underfunded this is often impossible. The number of people in England referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) dropped 47% in April and May 2020 compared to figures from the previous year. Sadly, this does not mean that mental health is improving for young people, but that teachers, GPs and other responsible adults know that CAMHS do not have the resources for another referral.
Constantly trying to absolve themselves of the image of ‘The Nasty Party’, the Tories have consistently paid lip service to addressing mental health problems. Theresa May (previous Conservative PM) said she would tackle the “stigma” of mental health. The current Tory government is no different.
Recently, ‘Dr Alex’ (Alex George, known from reality TV show Love Island) was appointed as a youth mental health ambassador for the government. In a video published online, he discusses with Boris Johnson the issue of mental health, and how the government can support those suffering.
However, interviews with celebrities cannot patch up the gaping holes that exist in terms of funding. If the Tories were serious about this, we would see material change, not press opportunities. CAMHS accounts for just 0.7% of NHS spending and only 6.4% of total mental health spending.
Some in the government are keen to cynically use the mental health crisis to push for loser restrictions.
Speaking in favour of re-opening the economy, Tory MP Mark Harper said “I know from parents and school students I have heard from in the Forest of Dean that continuing to keep schools shut is having a really damaging effect on our young peoples’ mental health and prospects.”
While this is of course a factor, children’s mental health problems have been on the rise for many years leading up to the pandemic. These MP’s do not have young people’s interests at heart.
Child poverty is at an all time high of 30.9% (4.2 million). In Peterborough, this figure rises to 40%, with areas of inner London standing closer to 55%. Young workers have borne the brunt of this latest economic crash with over 3 times as many young people being unemployed than those over 25. For young people today, all we have ever known is crisis and austerity.
Children and young people are now presented with a future of one crisis after another. How can we expect young people to not suffer mentally when this is what they’re up against? Capitalism has already entered into a crisis of an unprecedented scale and the ruling class offer us no solutions to stop it. While the Tories have dumped money into the economy to try to reverse this trend, they cannot go on spending forever. Their debts will need to be paid and it is the working class who will pay for it. The path is now paved for even worse austerity and climate catastrophe in the next decade.
It is clear that young people are bearing the brunt of a system in senile decay and that we must be the ones to overthrow it once and for all.
By Eve Rickson