Isolation – the enemy at home. Increased mental health concerns for UK Families


Boris Johnson has announced a return to the most stringent measures to combat the increasing numbers of Covid 19 in the community. The new measures, including a six-week lockdown, are due to take effect early on Wednesday 6th January (GMT). 

Whilst in general, voters appear to be in favour of supporting the more stringent measures, particularly in London and the south-east, there is increasing concern from families facing stay-at-home education, online schooling and the prospect of another year without a structured curriculum. 

Mental Health Admissions on hold 

As hospitals reach capacity, Boris Johnson, in his 4th January announcement warned, ‘we must once again stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives’. 

However correct this may be in light of the highly contagious new strain of Covid 19, it does not hold much hope for the millions of young people adversely affected by the increasing prevalent symptoms of a mental health crisis. 

CAMHS services prior to the pandemic were already stretched, with long waiting lists and minimal appointments in many parts of the U.K.

In West London in 2018-2019, a child could wait for 182 days to be seen in a mental health program and over a quarter of all cases were rejected (that’s some 133,000) children, teenagers and young adults. 

The most common reason for rejection was that the child or young person was not suitable for the treatment available. 

There were 25 adolescent suicides during the 56 days of lockdown in the U.K.

Whilst completed suicide is rare in those under 15, we have seen an alarming rise in the number of hospital admissions for Eating Disorders in the 13-15-year-olds age group. 

This particular group of young people have a higher than average possibility of self-harm. Self-harm is a factor that is known to bear some relevance on suicidal thoughts and suicidal attempts. There is a correlation between completed suicide and a history of self-harm. 

Early intervention in Eating disorders is essential. FREED is an innovative approach to the treatment of eating disorders pioneered by the team at Kings’ College in London. 

Fiona Yassin, Eating Disorder specialist in The Wave Eating Disorder programs has been trained in the FREED model at Kings’ College. Fiona recognises that contrary to the current situation for mental health and particularly eating disorder admissions; it is essential that young people receive early intervention to provide them with the very best chance of a full recovery.

FREED guidelines include the provision for a full assessment within 48 hours of admission. With rising hospital waiting times, this is unlikely to be sustained, leaving parents with few options for treatment in the NHS.

Isolation the enemy at home 

We are all used to young people, especially teenagers spending time in their rooms or occasionally slipping away from family activities. There is however, a point when isolating becomes more than a usual teenage behaviour. 

Isolation can be a barometer of more serious underlying mental health concerns. Isolation is common in addiction, eating disorders, self-harm and depression in teenagers and young adults. 

Feeling lonely can increase levels of anxiety and stress. It can also lead to increased levels of depression and is often reported by young people who are actively engaged in self-harming behaviours. 

Online learning. A solution or a nightmare?

Young people will return to online learning this week in the U.K. whilst this may be the most appropriate way to continue studies for the majority of children and young people, for many parents it is an added stress during an already intense period. 

Families may be concerned with the supervision of workloads and also with the increased time available for the more unsavoury aspects of life online. Safety for our youngest and most vulnerable is crucial. With an increase in online bullying, cybercrime and sexual content, parents are concerned about young people’s well-being. 

Parents can find themselves in a guilt trap, whilst attempting to hold well-structured boundaries around internet use together with allowing their young people time to socialise online. 

There are some useful tips for online social networks in the following article.

Parents and educators can also find an assortment of safety tutorials online for kids in all age groups. 

Mental Health Admissions in the Private Sector 

The U.K. has a small number of beds and program spaces for young people and under 18’s. There are relatively few private treatment programs that accept young people under the age of 18. 

During the past decade, families have chosen high-quality adolescent treatment programs overseas. This often comes with a rapid assessment to admission times, usually within the same week where necessary. 

The Wave Adolescent Program’s Medical Director Dr Rasyid Suliaman has been providing psychiatric services online for families in the U.K. throughout the recent troubled times. Dr Rasyid commented that ‘a timely, thorough and unhurried assessment of the young person and families needs is essential. Long waiting times increase the burden on families who in many cases are extremely worried about their son or daughter.’ 

Is overseas admission possible?

Yes, in some countries, adolescent programs are still operating for international families. The Wave Programs are extremely fortunate to be able to secure permits to travel for those assessed as having a medical need to do so.

Dr Rasyid has assisted several U.K. families in obtaining treatment for addiction, mood disorders, self-harm and eating disorders during the recent crisis.

Often families have moved from assessment to travel in a short time frame, following negative Covid test results and complying with the increased safety and security measures in place in Malaysia.

‘The process has been relatively straight forward and certainly better for young people than long waits, cancellations and revived services’, said Dr Rasyid. 

The Wave Programs for teenagers and young people is based in Kuala Lumpur. Over 60% of our families travel from the U.K. and Europe. With specialist Trauma Treatment, Eating Disorder and BPD programs, The Wave is the program of choice for families looking for excellence in adolescent mental health. 

The Wave is a member of The Association of Child Protection Professionals and The International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals. 

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Fiona - The Wave Clinic

Fiona Yassin is the founder and clinical director at The Wave Clinic. She is a U.K. and International registered Psychotherapist and Accredited Clinical Supervisor (U.K. and UNCG).

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