By Local Democracy Reporter
CHILDREN in Essex are being diagnosed with depression as young as seven as figures show the problems associated with anxiety in the county’s youngsters is rocketing.
Chelmsford-based Kids Inspire, which supports young people across Essex coping with trauma or emerging mental health issues, says referrals to them have increased by 49 per cent over the past year – roughly in line with the numbers that Essex hospitals have also seen.
Sue Bell, founder and CEO of Kids Inspire, said: “Similarly we have seen our referral rate reflect this change in the wellbeing of young people locally, with the biggest issue across all of our projects being stress and anxiety.
“In fact, our referrals have increased by 49 per cent over the past year, and sadly, the youngest child we have worked in the past three years, referred with depression, was just seven years old.
“Numbers really have skyrocketed, and there are so many different reasons for that.”
Essex hospitals treated children with anxiety nearly 700 times last year – with numbers soaring in recent years.
The diagnoses include anxiety disorders, phobic anxiety disorders, separation anxiety and social anxiety.
Hospital trusts in the area treated people aged between ten and 19 around 670 times in 2017/18, as well as treating under 10s around 30 times, figures from NHS Digital reveal.
The number of treatments was up from 490 treatments for those aged ten to 19 and around ten treatments for those aged under ten recorded the year before.
The number of times young people aged between ten and 19 have been treated has soared ninefold from around 75 incidences in 2010/11.
Ms Bell added: “Reaching out to our children and young people facing emotional distress earlier will help to tackle this rise in referrals.
“In support of this we currently offer front line staff trauma training to help them to understand the importance of attachment and emotional trauma – anything that is too much, too fast and too soon on our nervous system.
“Additionally, raising awareness among academic peer groups can also help the emotional wellbeing of a young person.
“A balance of mental and physical exercise is key to wellbeing – young or old.”
In 2017/18 children aged under ten were treated for anxiety around ten times at Mid Essex Hospital Services, while the numbers aged between ten and 19 has doubled in the past year and increased fivefold since 2010.
Those aged between ten and 19 were treated at Colchester Hospital 210 times in 2017/18, down from 225 in 2016/17, but a 14-fold rise from just 15 incidences in 2010/11.
Princess Alexandra Hospital has seen an eightfold increase in treatments for this age group over the past eight years, up from ten in 2010/11 to 75 in 2017/18.
At Southend University Hospital the number of times people aged ten to
19 were treated rose from 90 in 2016/17 to 105 in 2017/18, and it was
up from 25 in 2010/11.
Meanwhile Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals have seen the number of treatments for people aged ten to 19 rise from less than eight in 2010/11 to 130 in 2017/18.
Across England, under tens were treated for anxiety 1,754 times in 2017/18, up from 1,263 times in 2016/17.
The number of treatments for this age group has nearly tripled from 631 in 2010/11.
For those aged ten to 19, the increase has been even more dramatic.
This age group were treated for anxiety 28,204 times in 2017/18, a rise of more than a quarter from 22,080 in 2016/17.
However, the most recent figures are almost seven times higher than the numbers recorded in 2010/11, when those aged ten to 19 were treated 4,239 times.
Tom Madders, director of campaigns at children’s mental health charity YoungMinds, said: “These worrying figures reflect the rapidly growing demand for children’s mental health services, and we know that many more families can’t get the support they need.
“The new NHS long term plan must lead to increased funding for young people’s mental health, and much better support when problems first emerge.