Concern over rapid surge in Derbyshire children considering self harm during pandemic

Health chiefs in Derbyshire are worried about a significant rise in children and young people with eating disorders and considering self-harm, linked to the pandemic.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 1:31 pm

This comes as waiting times for mental health support for children and young people in Derbyshire has rocketed from a number of days up to several months.

At a Derby City Council meeting thia week, councillors were told that there has been a national increase in eating disorders and self-harming among children and young people.

David Gardner, the assistant director of commissioning at the Derby and Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said the same “worrying” and “rapid” increase has been seen in the county and city.

There has been a surge in concern over eating disorders and slef harm among yougsters in Derbyshire

This includes an increase in admissions at Chesterfield Royal Hospital and Royal Derby Hospital emergency departments.

Mr Gardner told the virtual meeting: “Anecdotally, we are hearing that across the East Midlands there is a rapid increase in the number of children presenting who are self-harmed. It is a signal of emotional distress.

“It is often about allowing children the opportunity to express themselves and to be listened to.

“It is often not a need for particular in-depth therapies, but it is about that listening, it is about that general support and there is a bit of catharsis which comes from that and there are some real vulnerabilities being expressed.

“We are yet to see the full impact of that but we are certainly seeing it reported and we are seeing our liaison teams in the emergency departments at Chesterfield and Derby – they are reporting seeing more children coming through.

“We do have these people in these posts and these children are being seen, but that is a concern and we need to know if this is going to be something that is long-lasting or whether it will be temporary and we don’t know the answer to that.

“It is similar with eating disorders. If it has been caused by lockdown you would expect it to begin to diminish, but a lot of these behaviours are learned and you get patterns of behaviour amongst children and it is our big fear that this is a cultural change in how things are being presented (how mental health issues are being shown).

“Organisations such as First Steps, a really good charity which does lots of work with children with eating disorders in Derby and across the county, they’re reporting that things are on the increase and want to work more with them and support for schools and help for people to know what to do.

“I think people feel powerless and worried and want to know how to help.

“That’s why waiting lists have shot up. We were not talking about weeks (worth of waiting lists) at the start of this, we were talking about days for the waiting list and we are now talking about weeks. That’s a reflection of these concerns.”

Nationally, there has been a 230 per cent increase in eating disorders among secondary school pupils partnered with charity Place2Be from autumn 2019 to autumn 2020.

In the same study, self-harm has risen by 109 per cent and 68 per cent increase in suicidal thoughts (suicide ideation).

Waiting times for one-to-one mental health care for children and young people in the north of the county stands at 11 weeks.