Cheshire crisis cafes set up as lockdown hurts children’s mental health

The lockdown has had a significant impact on the mental health of children and young people, with up to one in six needing help, a health boss has said. Dr Anushta Sivananthan, medical director of the Cheshire & Wirral Partnership NHS Trust, said a wellness center and crisis cafes were just two services set up in East Cheshire to help tackle the problem.

She told the Cheshire East Council Oversight Committee: ‘The impact of the pandemic has resulted in a 20 per cent increase in demand for specialist mental health care, and this across all ages. For children and young people, at one point it went up to 40%, it went down to 20%, but it is clear that the impact of the pandemic and the lockdown has had a significant impact on the mental health of people.

The doctor said the CWP reacted in several ways. “As part of the long-term mental health plan, we were able to invest in 24/7 liaison psychiatry services at the two acute care hospitals,” she said during the interview. Tuesday’s meeting at the council headquarters in Sandbach.

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“We have opened two crisis cafes, one in Crewe and one in Macclesfield, which means people with mental health needs can simply come in and get support and care locally. We have also launched an Intensive Mental Health Support Team for those with the most complex needs so that we can provide intensive holistic support.

The doctor said the loss of a normal routine for children had had a significant negative impact on their mental health, saying: ‘The prevalence of children and young people requiring mental health support is now estimated to have risen from one in six to one in nine. This has clearly resulted in more people requiring hospital care, but there has also been an increase in referrals to our community services,” she said.

She said a wellness center had been developed for children and families who could self-refer for advice and support. Cllr Rachel Bailey (Audlem, Con) said the children’s learning ability and self-esteem were affected “because they literally couldn’t interact like they would have if the masks didn’t were not necessary”.

She asked what arrangements were made in schools to help children. Dr Sivananthan said Cheshire East has been instrumental in setting up Intensive Mental Health Support Teams in schools.

She said: “We have specialists who work in schools not only to see pupils but also to help teachers help others. Not all schools are covered. There is not 100% coverage, but we are working on it, and as part of the long-term plan for mental health, this investment will go to Intensive Mental Health Support Teams in schools.

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