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  • Principal Investigator: Pearl Mok
  • 1 December 2021 to 30 November 2022
  • Project No: 566
  • Funding round: FR2

Many children and young people have reported poorer mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Surveys of people in the community have found that anxiety, depression, and disturbances in sleep and appetite are some of the most common symptoms reported. Around one in six children aged 5 to 16 years were identified as
having a mental health problem in July 2020, compared with one in nine in 2017. Even with the easing of lockdown measures, the disruptions and challenges related to the pandemic continue to have a negative influence on the mental health of young people. It is expected that the impact of the pandemic on children and young people’s mental health will only become obvious in the months and years to come. Although surveys have found
an increase in symptoms of poor mental wellbeing, it is unclear how diagnoses of mental health problems and self-harm in children and young people by general practitioners (GPs) has changed since the start of the pandemic.
This research aims to:
1. Look at how many children and young people in the UK have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder or have self-harm recorded in their GP records, comparing the periods before and during the Covid-19 pandemic. Specifically we will look at diagnoses of depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and autism spectrum disorder. We will also look at prescriptions offered in GP practices for medications used to treat mental health conditions, and how many children and young people have been referred to mental health services by their GPs.
2. Work with children and young people, parents and other key partners to develop recommendations for GPs, other healthcare services, social services, schools and colleges, on how to help children and young people with their mental health difficulties.
To address the first aim, we will analyse the electronic health records in GP practices of children and young people under 25 years of age. We will look at how many children and young people have been affected with a psychiatric disorder during different time periods before and during the pandemic, from 2016 onwards.
To address the second aim, we will work with the mental health research charity, the McPin Foundation, who specialize in involving children and young people with lived experience of mental health problems to help improve mental health research. The research team will work with groups of:
• Young people who have had experience of mental health problems.
• Parents/family carers who have had experience of supporting a young person with
mental health problems.
• Healthcare and educational professionals, including GPs, working with children
and young people.
These individuals will help us to make sense of the findings from the analyses of the GP patient records, and to think about what this means for GP practices, schools, colleges and universities, healthcare and social care services, children, young people and parents/carers. They will help us to produce recommendations that are relevant, and to develop creative and innovative ways to publicise our findings.

Amount awarded: £146,082

Projects by themes

We have grouped projects under the five SPCR themes in this document

Evidence synthesis working group

The collaboration will be conducting 18 high impact systematic reviews, under four workstreams.