Essex Council cash to address rocketing anxiety

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Essex County Council (ECC) has earmarked £120,000 to tackle increased anxiety among children, young people and their families due to the coronavirus crisis epidemic.

The money will be used to help people’s mental health by addressing understanding the virus and how to access support, managing and coping with change, separation and loss, managing and coping with anxiety, maintaining healthy relationships and staying active and curious.

The money is set to be distributed as small one-off grants to providers in the voluntary and community sector to deliver a range of support such as art and drama therapies, coaching and neuro linguistic programming – described as a way of changing someone’s thoughts and behaviors to help achieve desired outcomes for them – all underpinned by physical activity.

The intervention from ECC comes after a survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found almost half of British adults have felt a high level of anxiety during the coronavirus lockdown.

The number of people who rated themselves higher than six out of ten on an anxiety scale between 20 March and 30 March more than doubled to 49.6 per cent from the 21 per cent last year.

It meant more than more than 25 million people were affected by high levels of anxiety over health, job security and household finances.

The most widespread concern — estimated to affect 8.5 million in the UK — was the effect the boredom and loneliness of lockdown was having on their mental health.

A statement with a cabinet report setting out ECC’s aims: “The latest Essex data evidences that anxiety in children, young people and parents is increasing and in usual circumstances potentially affecting between 30-40 per cent of the five to 19 population.

“It is likely that this will increase significantly considering the impact Covid-19 is already starting to have on young people and families.

“Low level anxieties can be caused by many, or a combination of factors including; school transition, bullying, parental separation, bereavement or financial worries. These anxieties are further heightened and compounded by the current environment children and families are now enduring as a consequence of the pandemic.

“Covid-19 has affected social routines, enforced living together for sustained periods of time, resulted in separation and loss from friends and family and imposed lack of physical activity.”

The statement added: “Pre-Covid-19 there was a lot of focus on schools and supporting pupil emotional health and wellbeing and support for children and young people but there was a gap for focused early intervention community-based programmes that worked with the whole family in trying to specifically tackle anxiety and increase resilience.

“With Covid-19 there is now a pressing need to address this gap.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter