Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on child and adolescent mental health

Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on child and adolescent mental health

by Dr Sagnik Mukherjee

Posted on 4th December, 2023 at 6:11:19 PM

Of the world’s population, 28% are children equating to about 2.2 billion in number. In this figure, 16% constitute children and adolescents in the age group of 10-19 years.

Since the latter half of the year 2019, the current COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the world. COVID-19 is short for COronaVIrus Disease 2019. Sanitization, isolation, and social distancing have come to stay in our everyday lives. The pandemic and its containment procedures are having a drastic and adverse effect on all. This epidemic has created havoc in daily life and affected the psychological health of children and adolescents especially. Our best child psychiatrist will now elaborate.

Ways in which the COVID-19 Pandemic has affected the mental health of children and adolescents.

The quarantine to combat the virus has had a detrimental effect on the mental health condition of children and adolescents.

Effects of school closures

To prevent the Covid-19 risk factors, almost all policymakers have instituted a closure of schools, playgrounds, and public places. This type of isolation from their peers has never been earlier experienced by school students.

Children need a convivial environment where they can have social contact with members of their own age group. This social interaction is a must for the emotional development of the child. Social interaction has a psychological impact on children in their everyday lives.

As for education, the opportunity to learn academics first-hand from the teacher is lost due to the new “study-from-home” protective measure. This new shift to home study has lessened the interest and motivation of the child to study. If left unnoticed, these feelings of sadness and the disinclination to study can affect the quality of life of the child in the long run. To avoid this, parents must seek child counseling from expert mental health care workers. These therapy sessions will improve the life skills of the child in a major way.

Impact of Quarantine and Covid-19 lockdown 

For children, recreation and entertainment are the best stressbusters. Children face the challenges of their age and cope with their stress through play, sport, or recreation.

The COVID-19 Lockdown led to the closure of all public places and entertainment venues like beaches, parks, theatres, sports arenas, gyms, etc. In the name of social distancing, children are literally caged at homes, with no way to fraternize. This isolation has created a negative impact on the mental health of children.

Children are having anger-management issues and some even show symptoms of anxiety. There is a clear prevalence of depression, mania, and bipolar disorder in adolescents due to Covid-19 stressors. These depressive symptoms have even caused bouts of aggression and violence in adolescents. Such kind of psychological distress is harmful to both the child and others as it can have lifetime prevalence if not addressed immediately. Parents must seek the help of mental health care professionals to treat these elevated symptoms without delay.

Disorder in parents

The psychological effects of the COVID-19 crisis are more for adults than children. Many parents have lost their jobs, received pay cuts, or been forced to close their businesses. This has caused severe mental health consequences like anxiety disorder, manic depression, paranoia, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. All these are the mental health outcomes of the outbreak.

Children often witness scenes of family arguments, domestic violence, and even child abuse. This affects the mental health status of the child and scars them for life.

Parents must seek psychological treatment for themselves as mental disorders in parents can cause mental disorders in children.

Pre-existing mental disorders in children

A longitudinal study of pregnant mothers shows that the fetus is affected if the mother has anxiety symptoms. Adding to the pregnancy stress, these elevated anxiety symptoms due to the pandemic can harm children for life. Such children with pre-existing mental disorders need access to hospital facilities. However, the lockdown has limited access to hospitals except for Covid treatment. In such cases, parents must seek the help of mental health workers, at least over the phone.

Treating mental health disorder in children and adolescents during COVID-19

The Covid-19 Lockdown and social distancing are protective factors for all but they have limited access to medical facilities, especially for psychological issues. In such cases, parents can seek tele-counseling from expert mental health care professionals.

A cross-sectional study reveals that telepsychiatry has the same success rate as in-house consultation in treating child and youth mental health difficulties.

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