According to UNESCO, due to COVID-19, over 90 percent of students worldwide (approximately 1.5 billion young people) were out of education as of April 8, 2020. These closures are causing several concerns, particularly in terms of the mental health needs of children and adolescents. There are also concerns surrounding an increase in abuse due to social isolation during a time of uncertainty and stress.
It is critical that we remain mindful of these concerns as a society, ensuring that these children and their families get the help and support they need.
School Are Often an Anchor in Life for Children with Mental Health Issues
For more than 100 years, developmental scientists have studied how children and their families respond to disasters. As expected, the research shows that certain conditions help children overcome adversity, whereas other conditions result in unfavorable outcomes. The most critical variable is the presence of at least one caring adult. This is because when uncertainty arises, children are wired to look to their caregivers for guidance. If an adult remains calm, this will help the child feel safe and reassured.
As stated in a recent report, most mental health disorders begin in childhood. In order to better support a child’s development, mental health needs must be identified and treated as early as possible. Among children diagnosed with a mental health condition, schools provide an often overlooked role in the delivery of health care, particularly the mental health services they provide. Teachers, in particular, are often the ones filling the important role needed to provide children with the care and stability needed.
In a recent survey of over 2000 participants up to age 25 years with a mental health illness, 83 percent said that the pandemic has made their symptoms worse. In addition, 26 percent said they were unable to access mental health support; support groups; or face-to-face services.
The latest research examined 1784 children in grades 2 to 6 living in China whose schools had been closed for a month. Overall, 22.6 percent of students reported symptoms of depression and 18.9 percent showcased symptoms of anxiety. Similar concerns are being expressed in the United States.
The Center for Health and Health Care reported that of the students living with a mental illness, 70 to 80 percent receive care and support within a school setting. Since many schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year, these children may suffer in silence.
Cases of Child Abuse May Also Increase
The current pandemic is causing stress levels to increase, raising concerns surrounding both domestic and child abuse. Higher stress levels among parents is a major predictor of both neglect and physical abuse. Families are also facing financial strain, adding fuel to the fire.
If you or a loved one are in need of support, there are numerous resources available. Please read the following article for more guidance: Helping Our Children Cope with COVID-19 Anxiety.