A CALL from a distressed youth who was left without any human contact for 14 days due to Covid-19 has prompted serious concern from Childline.
The charity, which provides a counselling service over the phone for children and teenagers, has been dealing with a high volume of calls as a result of school closures and pandemic restrictions.
In the last two weeks, Cork volunteer Megan Sarl has been a source of strength for children struggling to cope with extremely challenging situations. One heartwrenching phone call came from a primary school student who spent 14 days confined to her bedroom after testing positive for Covid-19.
“She missed that contact from her family, especially during Christmas,” Megan explained. “On Christmas Day she had to stay in her bedroom even though she could hear her family downstairs. New Year’s Eve was also spent confined to her bedroom. It was really difficult for her. I don’t know what her family’s situation was. It’s not our place to ask those questions but it’s likely the child may have had a vulnerable family member.”
She said the situation can be equally upsetting for the children of adults self-isolating. On the lack of physical contact, Megan said: “This is the thing that young children are longing for. For a number of children, the parent is only at the other side of their bedroom door but they can’t get to them.
"Children have to go through this on their own. There is no comfort there for them. These are not just stories. They are the experiences of real-life children.”
Megan said uncertainty around school and exams has done little to ease youths’ anxiety. “That anxiety that’s been there since last March hasn’t shifted. There is a constant spiral. At the moment, I think we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. There are going to be so many knock-on effects as a result of self-isolation during the pandemic. We are seeing an increase of 100 calls a day as a result of what is going on during the pandemic.”
Megan listed some of the main concerns of children. “There have been a lot of rough patches for children since the schools were shut. A lot of calls came in from children anxious about getting tested. These are the things that kids are worrying about. A lot of children are down in the dumps. They don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Before, calls used to only come in outside of school hours. Now, they are coming in right through the day. Existing problems have been exasperated such as visitation with parents who are separated. Just because a pandemic is happening doesn’t mean these issues stop.”
She warned this will likely just be the start of children’s woes. “We hear about hospital cases and they are horrendous. You have to feel for the nurses, doctors, and patients, but the other consequence of the pandemic is the children having to deal with this alone. There will be a lot more of these children to come. I think we’re going to continue seeing the effects of this in years to come. Even though this isn’t affecting children’s health it is affecting them in 100 other ways.”
- Childline comes under the umbrella of the ISPCC (Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children). Children can contact the service on (0818) 277 477. They can also chat live on the website or send a text to 50101. To find out more about the organisation visit https://www.childline.ie/about-us/.