YOUNG people seeking mental health support in Bolton are suffering ‘Zoom fatigue’ and would prefer face to face meetings, a new report has revealed.

There has been a surge in the past two months of young people being referred to mental health services in Bolton, with figures markedly up from the same period in the previous two years.

A report to Bolton Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, Cllr Anne Galloway, entitled ‘Impact of Covid-19 on Children and Young People’s Mental Health’ identifies the increasing need for children and young people to have one-to-one meetings.

The opportunity for those types of meetings was reduced from March 2020 with more remote consultations done by phone and video conference after government restrictions were introduced.

The report states: “Bolton has reported a rise in demand for their more intensive one to one support since the pandemic began, and report that young people generally would prefer face to face interaction than online support.

“They are suffering ‘Zoom fatigue’, in the same way many adults working from home are, from so much time online for schooling and other aspects of their social lives.

“All services have reported an increase in acuity and complexity.

“Data from the 0-19 service has shown an increase in children and young people who have low health and wellbeing scores.”

Data in the reports says that mental health referrals in the early summer of this year surged.

The report states: “In 2019/20 there were a total of 2,605 referrals to Bolton Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

“This reduced significantly over the pandemic with 1,477 referrals made in 2020/21.

“Bolton CAMHS is now seeing an increased demand with 462 referrals being made within the first two months of 2021/22.

“This is 77 more than the same time period in 2019/20 and 292 more than in 2020/21.”

In 2020/21 a total of 1,750 new registrations were made to Bolton’s online counselling platform for 11-25 year olds which is called Kooth.

A total of 14,235 logins from 2,205 individual young people were made to the service across the financial year and 450 one to one counselling sessions also took place.

The most frequent reasons for using the service were anxiety and stress, suicidal thoughts, self harm, family relationships and self worth.

Registrations were more frequent in the Farnworth and Kearsley and Crompton and Halliwell areas.

The report highlighted a number of recommendations to improve services after the experience fo the pandemic.

The report said: “The experience of the last year has been different for every young person.

“We need to take a person centred approach to support and allow time for children and young people to adjust to a changing environment

“COVID-19 has led to different anxieties but also different coping mechanisms emerging and we need to encourage and support this to continue

“Children and young people need to know what information and support is available in a range of formats which are timely and transparent.

“Children and Young People want to feel connected to others and their community, providing accessible opportunities to connect, integrate and be active; removing barriers of cost, lack of awareness or fear will help.”