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One in six young people in England has a diagnosable mental health condition – and the crisis may take ‘generations’ to fix

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Across schools in London, the Zen Den is aiming to teach pupils and teachers a range of methods to look after their wellbeing.

Pupils at Westminster Academy in west London boarded a converted American school bus for tips on how to boost their mental health.

It’s something that many of the pupils here have struggled with – and for many, the struggle has been worsened by the pandemic.

One in six young people has diagnosable mental health condition
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The Zen Den at Westminster Academy

Tia-Jane Lewis, a Year 10 pupil, told Sky News that the pandemic has left her feeling “really anxious” and “really paranoid”.

She said: “I wasn’t really good at functioning and coping well.

“I couldn’t communicate with people properly, and I struggled with telling people how I felt.”

She said some of the worst moments she experienced were during lockdowns, as she would withdraw into herself.

Tia-Jane says she lost a number of friends and also fell behind in her schoolwork.

There was a time where the classroom became “just a really scary atmosphere” for her.

But with the right help and support from a counsellor and pastoral workers at the school, Tia-Jane feels like she’s overcoming the worst of the situation.

Elodie Lucina-Beckles, a senior pastoral support worker at Westminster Academy, is one of the members of staff who has supported Tia-Jane and other students through difficult and challenging times.

She told Sky News: “We are doing so much to empower our students, making sure that we create an atmosphere where they feel validated.

“We remind our students they have choices which means they have control.

“We just want to make sure that they know we’re always here to support them and that they have a voice and that we encourage them to speak and ask for help.”

Currently, one in six young people has a diagnosable mental health condition in England, according to data from NHS Digital.

Campaigners say there is an urgent need for more to be done.

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January: Concerns for child mental health

Louisa Rose, CEO of Beyond, told Sky News: “Currently we’re faced with a crisis layered on top of a crisis – so the pandemic exacerbated an already existing increase in mental distress among young people.

“Resources are stretched, funding is lacking.

“Sadly I do think that this is going to take generations to fix because what fundamentally needs to happen is that we as a society in the UK and therefore government need to effectively put physical health on par with mental health.

“Only when that happens will we start to fix the sort of broken foundations.”

One in six young people has diagnosable mental health condition
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Campaigners say the government must put mental health on a par with physical health

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We recognise the impact the pandemic has had on everyone, especially children and young people who have faced disruption to their home lives and their education.

“That is why we have committed an additional £500m this year to support those most affected, including £79m for children’s mental health services.

“We are expanding and transforming mental health services in England – backed by an extra £2.3bn per year by 2024 – to allow hundreds of thousands more children to access support.

“We have also appointed a Youth Mental Health Ambassador to assist us in supporting the mental health needs of our children and young people.”

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