Teenage mental health referrals in London double after lockdown

Private health provider Cygnet sees referrals jump by 113% in four years

Mental health referrals for teenagers in London have more than doubled in four years, according to new figures that lay bare the impact of lockdown and the cost of living crisis on young people. 

Cygnet Healthcare, a private provider, said that individual referrals to its Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in the capital had jumped by 113 per cent from 2018 to 2022. 

In 2018, 4.4 per cent of the total referrals into the provider’s CAMHS service were from the London region. By 2021, this had increased to 15.3 per cent. 

Referrals to Cygnet’s psychiatric intensive care unit more than doubled between 2019 and 2022, while admissions jumped by 41 per cent during the same time period. 

Cygnet’s CAMHS services focus on supporting children aged between 12 and 18.

The provider said it had seen an increase in the number of young people presenting with a “low mood, insomnia, stress and anxiety” as well as “depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms” following the lockdown. One of the “biggest increases in presentation was seen in disordered eating,” they said. 

There were three national lockdowns between March 2020 and July 2021, when the majority of Covid restrictions were lifted. During the first and third lockdown, schools were shut to all pupils except the children of key workers. 

Dr Triveni Joshi, a consultant psychiatrist who specialises in child and adolescent psychiatry, said: “We won’t know for many years whether the virus itself disturbed young people’s neurological development but we have emerging evidence which tells us about the detrimental impact of lockdown.

“It impacted young people’s mental health and wellbeing severely, particularly those who had pre-existing mental health conditions.”

Dr Joshi said that the “biggest concern” for children during lockdown was “isolation” and that a “lack of socialisation is a key factor in depression”.