Teenager tells of struggle seeking mental health help during Covid pandemic after services 'came to a standstill'

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger

A teenager has spoken of her struggle in being able to seek mental health help during the Covid pandemic after services "effectively came to a standstill."

Speaking to ITV News anonymously the teenager said she is still waiting for an appointment despite several referrals from her school.

When asked how the pandemic has affected her and the help on offer, she said: "Well, obviously the isolation from other people doesn't help, but the services effectively came to a standstill so there was nothing.

"It's the darkest part of you, you've never really wanted anyone to know and suddenly you've decided well I want this help, I'm going to be brave and reach out and nothing comes of it."

Her mother, Lisa Tillotson, told ITV News "it's heartbreaking" to have both her daughters suffer in hospital.

"Not just one child, but two children really struggling, being in hospital for four or five days on a drip, sleeping there you know not wanting to leave her side, it's heartbreaking," she said.

"You obviously want the best for your children and I think, it's feeling like you're failing your children, I will never ever stop fighting for their future to give them the help they need. I do worry that they will be struggling into adulthood," she added.

In March, one of Lisa's daughters tried to kill herself after waiting 18 months for help. 

Ms Tillotson added: "You obviously want the best for your children and I think, it's feeling like you're failing your children, I will never ever stop fighting for their future to give them the help they need. I do worry that they will be struggling into adulthood."

Her comments come as it is revealed one in six children now suffer from a mental health disorder, according to a new NHS report, which highlights how lockdown has made conditions such as depression and anxiety worse.

The Mental Health of Children and Young People in England study found increasing rates of boys and girls experiencing poor mental health, including problems sleeping and anxiety about the Covid-19 pandemic.

The study, published by NHS Digital, is based on interviews with 3,570 children and young people face to face in 2017 and followed up online in July 2020 when they were aged five to 22.

It found rates of probable mental disorder have increased over the last three years, with one in six (16%) children aged five to 16 having a probable disorder in 2020, up from one in nine (11%) in 2017.

Children and young people with a probable mental disorder were also more likely to experience anxieties about the pandemic than those without.

Some 43% of 11 to 16-year-olds said life was a little or much worse due to Covid-19, as did 43% of 17 to 22-year-olds.

Tamsin Ford, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Cambridge and one of the report’s authors, said experts believed the pandemic had contributed to poorer mental health.

She added: "We do know that loneliness is very toxic and social isolation is very toxic to mental health."

Dr Bernadka Dubicka, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: "It’s deeply distressing to see such a sharp increase in the number of young people living with a mental illness, more so as lockdown and poverty has made many of their lives significantly worse.

"Services were already struggling to cope with demand before Covid-19, but access has been even worse since lockdown started.

"We are now seeing more patients needing emergency or urgent treatment because they’ve become so ill while waiting to be seen.

"Mental health services are open for business, but plans to roll out mental health support teams in schools must be accelerated if we are to tackle the mental health consequences of Covid-19."

Who to contact if you or someone you know needs help

  • Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org

  • Mind also offer mental health support between 9am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. You can call them on 0300 123 3393 or text them on 86463. There is also lots of information available on their website.

  • Campaign Against Living Miserably's (CALM) helpline and webchat are open from 5pm until midnight, 365 days a year. Call CALM on 0800 58 58 58 or chat to their trained helpline staff onlineNo matter who you are or what you're going through, it's free, anonymous and confidential.