Mental health illnesses now affect 2,500 more children in Southampton than they did six years ago – and the number is ‘predicted to continue rising significantly’.

Some 15.9 per cent of children have a mental disorder - up from 10.5 per cent in 2017.

A report said this is ‘in part due’ to the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

One in five Southampton families are classed as being on a low income and last year, it was reported that one third of Southampton’s children were living in poverty.

The national average for children living in ‘the most deprived’ parts of a city is 12 per cent. Southampton’s is 18 per cent.

In terms of the pandemic’s effects on children’s mental health in the city, a survey carried out in the height of the 2020 lockdowns, found that 65 per cent of child respondents felt their mental health had worsened.

Southampton City Council held a health and wellbeing board meeting to discuss what is being done to help.

Donna Chapman, the deputy director for Integrated Commissioning, said: “What we have seen since Covid is quite a significant increase in mental health referrals and we know nationally from evidence that has increased.

“There is increased need around anxiety and depression etc. We are seeing that in Southampton.”

She spoke about some of the work that is being done to battle the problem, looking at how they can ‘roll out access through other routes’.

Some of these ‘other routes’ include the Kooth project – an online service that has been commissioned around the whole of Hampshire and Isle of Wight. Last March, Hampshire experienced the highest monthly child mental health referral rate of all time.

Online counselling for children and young people is said to be ‘getting good take up’.

Ms Chapman said: “Another thing to mention is around the healthy early years award and the introduction of a mental health and wellbeing module within that that builds on the principles that mental health is everyone’s business.

“Around the whole system we are promoting good mental health for children and young people.”