“The effect of school closures, cancelled exams and empty lecture halls will reverberate through our families and communities long after Covid-19 is consigned to the history books,” she said.
“Inequalities will widen, life chances will diminish, and the mental health crisis already running rife in our young people could plague this generation for years to come.”
She warned it would undermine social mobility by widening the gap for children from poorer backgrounds who had less access to computers for remote learning from home.
Social interactions and friendships that strengthened children’s health and well-being had gone and there was less chance for teachers to spot a child’s impending mental illness early.
“Lost are the interactions between teachers and pupils, which are so important in identifying distress and mental illness, 75 per cent of which start in childhood and adolescence,” said Dr Dubicka.
She warned that the Government’s 10-year mental health strategy to put a mental health team in every school had been set back by the pandemic.
But she urged ministers to accelerate the rollout of the teams, invest in increased mental health staff and double the number of medical school places.
Robert Halfon, Conservative chair of the Commons Education Committee, said there was a “ticking time bomb” of mental health problems, initially illustrated this week by a 400 per cent rise in child eating disorders during the pandemic.
He urged the Government to carry out a risk assessment of the impact of school closures on children’s mental health and well-being, and put a mental health professional in every school for parents and children to contact.
“I welcome what [Dr Dubicka] is saying. What needs to be said she is saying. I hope it makes a difference,” said Mr Halfon.