21st October 2020

Inpatient mental health wards during Covid-19

Covid-19 and the lockdown period have taken a toll on all children, forcing them to miss out on school, time with friends and other restrictions in their lives. But there are some children who have faced particular challenges during this period. This briefing note – one in a series examining how certain groups of children have fared during the pandemic – focuses on the experiences of children living in mental health wards and shows how Covid-19 and lockdown has affected their hospital experience.

The children on these wards are living with severe mental health disorders, like eating disorders or severe depression and are in hospital because they need more intensive level of care than is possible in the community – often to keep them physically safe from harming themselves. Nevertheless, being in hospital away from home, friends and family and with other children in distress can be traumatic for children. Moreover, our research has found that too many children are spending months or even years in these settings when they do not need to be, often because there is nowhere for them to move on to1. There have also been serious concerns raised about the quality of care in some of these institutions.

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