Children and young people are not receiving the mental health care they need, as an NHS Trust revealed that pressures caused by Covid-19 are leading to longer waiting times for treatment.

A report by Healthwatch Suffolk has also revealed a decline in young people’s mental wellbeing during the pandemic, with many reporting poorer self-esteem compared to 2019.

There has also been a rise in online bullying and instances of self-harm.

A spokesperson for Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health care across the two counties, said a rise in referrals during the pandemic had resulted in longer waiting times for assessment and treatment.

She added: “We know some young people have waited too long and we apologise to any young person affected by this situation. Everyone is working hard to turn things around, including extra investment and more staff to boost the amount of treatment and support on offer.

“Although we are under pressure, we urge anyone who needs help with their emotional wellbeing to please come forward. We will always prioritise emergency and urgent cases, seeing emergency cases within a day and urgent cases within four days on average.”

Wendy Herber, independent chair of Healthwatch Suffolk, said: “There has never been a more important time to listen to our young people.

“This latest data set continues to highlight that young people’s wellbeing must be of the utmost priority if we are to respond to their needs and prevent critically higher need for mental health and emotional wellbeing support in the future.

“There can be no doubt that particular groups of young people continue to be disproportionately impacted by mental health and emotional wellbeing issues and this is something that requires ongoing and specific action to be taken by decision-makers across our health, care and education sectors.”

The report found one in five students said they ‘felt loved’ rarely or none of the time, while 30% of children receiving free school meals had experienced a mental health difficulty, but had not sought help.

Overall, they did not feel supported with their mental health.