Recovery for children and young people’s mental health after COVID-19

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Children and young people’s mental health suffered due to COVID-19 with closures in schools, sports, and social clubs during COVID-19…

Children and young people missed out on key development opportunities in educational, social, and physical health. This intensified health inequalities, and existing physical and mental health complications. Since COVID-19, there has been a rise in the number of young people presenting at A&E with emergencies related to mental illness, such as eating disorders, self-harm, and alcohol/substance use disorders. There is a need to intervene early, as well at the point of crisis.

Who we are:

The ARC NWL Multimorbidity and Mental Health Theme is a translational research department located at Imperial College London. We are comprised of research academics, lecturers, clinicians, and improvement scientists. We work with healthcare providers, clinicians, charities, philanthropists, public and patient representatives, and community organisations, to test and enhance healthcare for people with multiple health conditions through the life course, including mental health and frailty. We know that mental illness increases risk of developing chronic disease later in life, which commonly coexist, hence – multimorbidity and mental health.

Our Vision for Young People’s Mental Health:

Our Theme for Multimorbidity and Mental Health are dedicated to enhancing early intervention and emergency response for young people experiencing mental health difficulties.

We will…

“Respond to the Mental Health needs of vulnerable populations during COVID-19”


  • Northwest London’s mental health burden is high relative to the rest of England, and boroughs such as Brent have been amongst the worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a direct impact on children and young people’s mental health. Northwest London is an area of high ethnic diversity and socioeconomic deprivation with large inequalities in health status and healthcare access; some of the wealthiest people in England live alongside some of the poorest.

  • Whilst Northwest London has a strong record in adult mental health research, children and young people have been underserved; only one of 49 current studies on the NIHR Clinical Research Network mental health portfolio had focussed on children and young people.

  • The current capacity for community mental health research within the sector and in NWL-ARC is lacking relative to need and to comparable Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs).

  • While the links between physical health, mental health, deprivation, ethnicity, education, and social care are well-recognised, lack of linked data has limited development of a joined-up, population-based approach to identifying and supporting children and young people at risk of developing mental health conditions.

  • The green paper ‘Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision’ identified a central role for schools in promoting mental health; however, schools lack specialist expertise, access to evidence-based interventions and resources. New funding and a new workforce, Educational Mental Health Practitioners, provides a timely opportunity to engage schools in research to improve children and young people’s mental health.

What we are doing

Project 1: Evaluating a New Model of Care for Young People’s Psychiatric Services within Emergency Settings

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To respond to the increased demand for specialist psychiatric care within emergency services, we producing practical guidelines for implementing an evidence-based model of care that is scalable to emergency departments across the NHS. This scalable model is based on our evaluation of a new flagship service being developed at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, in collaboration with CW+ Charity, Central and North West London NHS Trust, Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust & West London Mental Health NHS Trust. The service will build a new adolescent emergency unit and mental health drop-in service, as well as linkage to intensive family-based therapy for eating disorders. We will use our research to build a learning network to encourage other sites to innovate.

Project 2: Building Research Infrastructure for Young People’s Mental Health

Our aspirations

To build a sustainable children and young people’s mental health infrastructure to support research and address health inequalities in access to mental health care.

Bringing together the public, patient consortiums, communities, third sector, NHS provider organisations, and academic institutions to co-produce research, involving children and young people at every stage, and creating a sustainable and impactful mechanism to influence policy and practice.

Establishing a Northwest London children and young peoples mental health network

By establishing a multi-agency and multi-sectoral network of stakeholders focused on research that has children and young people’s voices involved at every stage.

Build on Northwest London’s infrastructure for research using Big Data

Working with our collaborative network, we will build on existing experience in undertaking research using large datasets to identify and prioritise children and young people living in Northwest London who would benefit from earlier preventative support.

Developing a schools’ mental health needs assessment health needs assessment

We want to help Northwest London schools access evidence-based interventions and resources to improve mental health care for children and young people and their families.

Contact us:

If you would like to discuss existing or potential projects, please contact:

NIHR ARC Northwest London,
South Kensington,
London SW7 2BX

We want to hear from you:

With your insights, opinions, and collaboration, we can achieve our objective more effectively. Join the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag: #ARCWorkingDifferently

Let us know who you are, and what recovery looks like for children and young people’s mental health based on your observations in your work and your communities.

Explore more from the theme:

Multimorbidity and Mental Health