In a year of closed schools, A-Levels and GCSEs cancelled, Hertfordshire children have been increasingly reaching out to the NHS mental health services for support.

The news follows this newspapers enquiries, during Children's Mental Health week, which takes place from Monday, February 1 to 8, to Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust that runs two services to support children and young people’s mental health:

The trust explained its referrals into its positive behaviour, autism, learning disability and mental health service (PALMS) initially saw an increase in crisis presentations for 2020 compared to previous years.

Looking at January to December 2019 compared to the same period in 2020, they said PALMS has had a nearly six per cent increase.

When it came to HCT's service working with 0 to 19 year-olds, who have already accessed mental health services, school-aged children referred to the trust reduced during the first COVID-19 lockdown, but have since increased as of the autumn of 2020 when schools returned.

These referrals known as 'Step 2' are now above the situation before COVID-19. In comparing referrals accepted by these services between 2019 and the same period in 2020, Step2 has experienced an increase of three per cent.

A report also launched this week found one in six report mental health problems by the age of 17. And Emma Thomas, chief executive of YoungMinds, explained: “The coronavirus pandemic is adding to the pressures young people are facing, and many have struggled to get the right support for their mental health.

"Now is the time for the Government to prioritise early support and prevention to ensure young people get help as soon as they need it.”

For information for parents and carers to support children and young people, including their mental health and wellbeing please go here.

You can also see this list of resources within Hertfordshire, up to date as of October 2020, which is also on its PALMS and Step2 service pages on HCT’s website.

If you, a friend or family member are experiencing a mental health crisis, please call: 0800 6444 101.

This line is open 24/7. If you need physical health treatment in an emergency go to your nearest Accident and Emergency department or call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

If you're under 19 you can confidentially call, email or chat online about any problem big or small to Childline, just freephone its 24h helpline: 0800 1111

YoungMinds Crisis Messenger also provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK if you are experiencing a mental health crisis. If you need urgent help text YM to 85258.