In order to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic and save lives, the Government introduced measures such as restrictions on movement and the closure of schools. Over the past year we have lived three national lockdowns which will have long-term effects on many young people's mental health for years to come. As restrictions are lifting we need to make sure we have the right identification methods and referrals for help, both in and out of the school setting.
Parents and carers should remain watchful for any changes our children’s mental and emotional health over the last year. The loss of peer to peer contact coupled with uncertainty about the future can often exacerbate already existing issues with mental health, particularly around self-harm or suicidal ideation; or bring new issues to the surface.
Things to look out for:
- Frequently presenting themselves in a negative light, using words like 'useless', 'worthless' when referring to themselves
- Difficulty in verbalising their feelings
- Loss of interest in things they previously enjoyed
- Withdrawing themselves away from family and spending long periods of time alone
-Covering up (arms especially) even in heated rooms
- Avoiding contact with friends
- Unexplained outbursts of anger or sudden changes in behaviour
- Significant changes to eating and/or sleeping habits
Many of these signs can often simply be classed as normal teenage behaviour but they can also be early indications of depression. Primary aged children may also have affects on their mental health especially for children who struggled with anxiety pre-lockdown - this is likely to be heightened.
We should also be mindful about young carers who may have had increasing roles over the lockdown and children who may have witnessed a loved one pass away.
What can parents and carers do?
If you feel that your this has effected your child’s behaviour:
Remain calm and make sure your child knows that you are available to talk when they are ready.
Spend communal time together as a family. Talk with them about what’s going on. Let them know that it’s okay to feel however they feel.
Reassure them this will pass, you’re there for them, and you will get through this together.
Encourage children and young people to leave the house for exercise and nature.
Keep as many regular routines going as possible to help your child feel safe and secure.
Share your concerns with your child's school and access support. The school's Designated Safeguarding Lead's email or phone number should be available on the school website - if not please request this via your school office telephone number.
Arrange an appointment with your GP for further assessment as soon as possible.
If you are worried that a child or young person is in immediate danger, call 999.
If you are worried about a young person who is a neighbour and you do not know who to call, you can call your local Safeguarding Hub. Swindon's Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) – MASH contact number is 01793 466903 -to be used during weekday work hours. Out-of-hours emergency duty service - only for reporting safeguarding concerns that require urgent action out of normal working hours- Tel: 01793 436699.
Here’s the figures (from the Charity Young Minds)
67% of parents/carers said they are concerned about the long-term impact of the coronavirus on their child’s mental health. This rose to 77% among parents and carers whose children have required mental health support in the last three months.
Among parents whose children had received mental health support in the previous three months (through the NHS, private providers, school counsellors, charities and helplines) 25% said that their child was no longer able to access it, but still needed it.
In a survey with young people at the start of the pandemic, 83% said that the crisis had made their mental health worse. In a follow up survey in June, 41% said it had made their mental health “much worse”, up from 32% in the previous survey in March.
31% of young people who were accessing mental health support before the crisis are no longer receiving it.
87% of young people agreed that they had felt lonely or isolated during the lockdown period, even though 71% had been able to stay in touch with friends.
The charity Young Minds, are calling on the Government to take urgent action to make sure that all young people can get the help they need when they need it. You can read more about it here.
Every one of us will face significant challenges to our mental health. How we deal with this depends on multiple factors; those of ‘ourselves’ - our genetics, our lifestyles and past trauma, and those of our ‘environment’ - where we are, who we are with and supported by and what we are doing. So please BE INQUISITIVE – ask the feeling ok today questions, make the time for family time and outdoor time and seek help if needed.