A quarter of young people in Merton struggle to access mental health services as GPs struggle to meet the “tsunami of need” following the pandemic.

A survey of secondary school children in Merton was carried out by the borough’s young inspectors – a group of young people aged 16 to 23 who inspect the council’s services.

Young inspector, Lola Kareem, told Merton Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board on Tuesday (September 21) that young people’s mental health had been impacted by the pandemic. She said: “During focus groups and interviews we were told they sought informal support from their friends and family because they were not able to get professional appointments or having to wait six months or more.

“It is good they had support from family and friends but in general this isn’t the type of support that they needed, they need professional support to help them out with their mental health.”

Of those they interviewed, food poverty was also a big concern with one in 10 people saying they had to skip meals because there wasn’t enough food while one in 20 had gone a whole day without eating before.

Mark Creelman, from the NHS in South West London, said that following the pandemic there has been a “tsunami” of people needing mental health support.

Dr Laura Jarvie, a Wimbledon GP, said: “What I see in the survey is the tsunami that Mark described and it’s really disheartening to hear that young people still can’t get the access that they need. I think it is simply a demand and capacity problem.”

She said alongside a “meaningful face-to-face offer” apps could be used to meet the demand.

Dr Jarvie added: “My understanding is that not all young people would want to come to their GP or access support in their school. It is about getting a full understanding of where those gaps are and how we can work together with our knowledge of the different bits of the system and what we can best do to meet that tsunami of need.”