Beauty & Wellness Breaking News TAC Special

Effect of COVID-19 on children’s mental health

Corona virus disease epidemic 2019 (COVID-19) was first identified in Wuhan, China, and later reported to have spread globally to trigger a global pandemic. As of August 18th, 2020, with at least 21,756,357 confirmed cases; the corona virus had spread to more than 216 countries, resulting in 771,635 deaths worldwide.
|| Manju Antil

This pandemic was proclaimed as a national emergency by many states, causing millions of people to go into lockdown. This sudden forced social isolation has caused the global population, especially children, to interrupt daily routines tremendously. The majority of schools closed, cancelled courses, and moved it to home or online learning to promote and comply with social distancing recommendations among the steps aimed at mitigating the spread of the virus. Education and learning of 67.6 per cent of students were affected internationally by corona virus in 143 countries. The move away from physical activity dramatically disrupted the lives of students and their families, posing a potential risk to children’s emotional well-being. Abrupt changes in the learning environment and restricted social experiences and behaviours have resulted in an unprecedented condition for children developing brains. It is important and obligatory for the science community and healthcare professionals to examine and evaluate the psychological effects caused by the corona virus pandemic on children, when many psychological problems begin during childhood. Countries around the world, including the United States, are in the challenge of assessing effective methods for children to mitigate the cognitive effects of corona virus.

Let’s discuss some major areas regarding the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health

What are the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health?

Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety. Meanwhile, COVID-19 itself can lead to neurological and mental complications, such as delirium, agitation, and stroke. People with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection ̶ they may stand a higher risk of severe outcomes and even death.

Overview of the effects of mental health on children

The epidemic of COVID-19 has disrupted the lives of many people around the world. The pandemic has generated a sense of confusion and fear, as the world has been unable to predict or prepare for this epidemic. It has created a high degree of stress among teenagers, adolescents and all students in general, mostly due to the closing of their schools. This stress can lead to detrimental adverse effects on students’ learning and psychological well-being. Children subjected to these events can experience anxiety, heart attacks, depression, mood disorders and other mental illnesses. Distressing events such as separation from family and friends, seeing or being aware of critically ill members affected with coronavirus, or the passing of loved ones or even thinking of themselves perhaps dying from the virus would have a detrimental effect on the mental health. Additionally, the healthy daily routines of children have been disrupted due to the COVID-19, which contributes to the additional stress and sleeping difficulties that many children face. Uncertainty of their future ambitions, academics, personal relationships, and inactivity due to the pandemic poses a significant threat to their mental well-being and putting them at risk of drug abuse. COVID-19 can seriously leave a negative impact on children’s mental health, just like other traumatic experiences humans may face. It can lead to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. This causes fear in children because the virus threatens not just them but also their families and surroundings, especially as they see their parents working from home, leading to fear and shock.

 

Factors contributing to children’s mental health

During this pandemic, children and their families were vulnerable to direct or indirect causes that could cause stress and emotional distress. Parents and/or guardians were expected to work from home for several weeks of home growing. In addition, because of employment cuts, many households have lost their financial stability. This disease triggers anxiety in children because kids are concerned not just about getting infected, but also about keeping their parents at home and not heading for work. Some families are unable to feed their children, since many rely on school programmers or food stamps, and not all families with money can have enough supplies. However, the severity of the pandemic is unpredictable, as many households have lost loved ones, while some remain in areas spared by the outbreak. Some children have parents who are working on the front lines of COVID-19 environments, and others have parents who are now working from home or have just been terminated.

Are children with underlying health conditions at higher risk for COVID-19?

Current evidence suggests that people with underlying conditions such as chronic respiratory illness including asthma (moderate-to-severe), obesity, diabetes or cancer, are at higher risk of developing severe disease and death than people without other health conditions. This also appears to be the case for children, but more information is still needed.

Should children wear a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic?

WHO advises that people always consult and abide by local authorities on recommended practices in their area. An international and multidisciplinary expert group brought together by WHO reviewed evidence on COVID-19 disease and transmission in children and the limited available evidence on the use of masks by children.

How can I keep my child safe if they are going to school during COVID-19?

  • Monitor your child’s health and keep them home from school if they are ill.
  • Teach and model good hygiene practices for your children:
  • Wash your hands with soap and safe water frequently. If soap and water are not readily available,
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and
    water, if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Ensure that safe drinking water is available and toilets or latrines are clean and available at
  • Ensure waste is safely collected, stored and disposed of.
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow and avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth and

Can babies get the corona virus disease?

We know it is possible for people of any age to be infected with the virus, but so far there are relatively few cases of COVID-19 reported among children.

What is the COVID-19 incubation period for children?

The incubation period for children is the same as in adults. The time between exposure to COVID-19 and when symptoms start is commonly around 5 to 6 days, and ranges from 1 to 14 days.

Are children at lower risk of COVID-19 than adults?

So far, data suggests that children under the age of 18 years represent about 8.5% of reported cases, with relatively few deaths compared to other age groups and usually mild disease. However, cases of critical illness have been reported. As with adults, pre-existing medical conditions have been suggested as a risk factor for severe disease and intensive care admission in children.

Does 5-year-olds and under have to wear a mask to protect against COVID-19?

Children aged 5 years and under should not be required to wear masks. This is based on the safety and overall interest of the child and the capacity to appropriately use a mask with minimal assistance.

How can I keep my child safe if they are going to school during COVID-19?

  • Monitor your child’s health and keep them home from school if they are ill.
  • Teach and model good hygiene practices for your children:
  • Wash your hands with soap and safe water frequently. If soap and water are not readily available,
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water, if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Ensure that safe drinking water is available and toilets or latrines are clean and available at home.
  • Ensure waste is safely collected, stored and disposed of.
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow and avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth and nose.

How to take care of one’s physical and mental health during corona virus pandemic?

During this difficult time, it’s important to continue looking after your physical and mental health. This will not only help you in the long-term, it will also help you fight COVID-19 if you get it. First, eat a health and nutritious diet, which helps your immune system to function properly. Second, limit your alcohol consumption, and avoid sugary drinks. Third, don’t smoke. Smoking can increase your risk of developing severe disease if you become infected with COVID-19. Fourth, exercise.

Conclusion

The general awareness of COVID-19 has expanded around the globe, but its immediate and long-term mental health effects on children remain difficult to quantify. Steps to deter the transmission of the infection and to overcome unpredictable circumstances face threats to children’s social well-being. The measures taken, such as closing classrooms, restricting social contact, enforcing travel restrictions, stopping sports activities and transferring everyone to online courses, have caused emotional distress, panic, and anxiety among children and their caregivers. It is essential that the guardians, educational institutions, and health authorities protect and guard the mental health of children consistently through open communication and facilitate professional counseling to address stressors. Additional attention should be given to the children who are more susceptible to the mental health crisis through a collaborative approach by involving their parents, educators, school administrators, counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists.


Manju Antil | Counselling psychotherapist Wellnessnetic care

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