MANY parents will be worried about their child’s risk of catching coronavirus, but experts have warned they should also be concerned about their kids’ post-lockdown mental health.
A new review suggests children and young people are likely to experience high rates of depression and anxiety long after lockdown ends, concluding that lonely youngsters might be three times more likely to develop depression in the future, and that the mental health impact of the pandemic could last for 10 years.
Clinical psychologist Dr Maria Loades, of the University of Bath in England, who led the review of more than 60 studies on topics such as isolation, loneliness and mental health for people aged four-21, says: “From our analysis, it is clear there are strong associations between loneliness and depression in young people, both in the immediate and the longer term. We know this effect can sometimes be lagged, meaning it can take up to 10 years to really understand the scale of the mental health impact the Covid-19 crisis has created.”
And it’s not just experts worried about the impact of the pandemic — a study of parents and carers by the UK charity YoungMinds found 67% were concerned about the long-term impact on their child’s mental health.
“We know many children and young people have struggled to adjust to the changes brought about by the pandemic,” says Tom Madders, YoungMinds’ director of campaigns. “Whether that’s because they miss friends, have struggled to manage without the structure of school, or have lost their coping mechanisms or professional support, the crisis has put added pressure and anxiety on many young people.
“Because schools have been closed and some GP surgeries have been harder to access, fewer young people than usual are being referred for mental health support — even though it’s likely there has been an increase in the number struggling to cope. As we start to emerge from the pandemic, some may find it hard to readjust after being in isolation, or are coming to terms with a lot more uncertainty about their future. If you’re worried about how your child is coping, trust your instinct and reach out for help.”
1. Persistent changes in mood or behaviour: Try keeping your family routine as consistent as possible, children can really benefit from stability of routine when they are struggling with feelings or emotions.
2. Withdrawal: Children struggling with their mental health may find it difficult to communicate. Try to open up conversations about what they’re involved and usually interested in.
3. Joylessness: Young people may find no joy or contentment in things they usually enjoy.
4. Poor sleep: There may be a change in things like your child’s sleeping or eating habits.
5. Lack of focus: Children and young people may be finding it hard to concentrate.
6. Lack of interest: They may have no interest in school work or in play, or spending time with people.
7. Boredom: They may complain of feeling bored or lonely, even when they have friends. Try and dedicate quality time that you can spend together and do something they enjoy.
8. Irritableness: They may be more irritable and moody than normal.
9. Sadness: Children may be tearful, or simply look sad or withdrawn.
10. Lack of confidence: They may have less self belief than normal.
As a parent, be part of the solution, suggests YoungMinds. Help them plan, problem solve, or develop hope for the future. And “don’t blame yourself,” stresses Madders.