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COVID-19 has been challenging for the mental health of children and young people in the United Kingdom (UK). There has been significant upheaval in their school, family, and social lives, and many continue to have concerns about impacts on their mental health, their education, and their futures.

The current evidence base is mixed and incomplete. Nonetheless, actions to mitigate the short and long term harms, and to leverage the positive impacts, of the pandemic need to be taken now. The evidence base will take time to reach maturity, and opportunities for providing support may have gone or be more difficult to take advantage of by then.

To address this, researchers ran a policy lab to explore the actions that can be taken, based on syntheses and evaluations of the current evidence base, to better support the mental health of children and young people in the UK, both in the immediate circumstances of the pandemic and in the longer term.

The first day of the lab was spent looking at the most pressing challenges for children and young people’s mental health and what we could do to 'build back fairer'. The second day of the lab focused on understanding the barriers to action and how they might be overcome, and identification of the stakeholders who should be engaged to ensure that the proposed actions are implemented.

This briefing note presents the key points of discussion and recommendations emerging from the lab.

Key themes:

  1. The pandemic has had multiple impacts on education and daily life – particularly the impacts of social isolation, academic pressures, and transitions to online learning. Readapting to the school environment may also bring further challenges.
  2. There has been severe disruption to support services – while children and young people experience these mental health challenges, there has been limited access to effective and diverse types of support.
  3. There are wider impacts of loss, trauma and financial security – children and young people have been affected by the challenges and losses that their families, communities, and wider society has experienced throughout the pandemic.


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