A child is unlikely to be severely impaired physically by Covid, but its effect on their mental health is potentially ‘devastating,’ say experts.
Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health cites sleep problems, isolation and loneliness as consequences of school closures and the NSPCC has recorded a 10% increase in loneliness-triggered calls to its Childline service since the pandemic began.
This echoes ‘The Mental Health of Children and Young People in England 2020’ report, by NHS Digital and the Office for National Statistics where findings include:
• 1 in 6 children aged 5-16 exhibiting a possible mental health disorder; up from 1 in 9 in 2017
• Older girls had the highest rates
• Children citing family tensions, financial worries, isolation from friends and fear of the virus as key to their distress
• More than half of young people surveyed are ‘always feeling anxious.’
Parents of babies and toddlers have missed physical meetings with health visitors in many areas; also their regular support groups and Alison Morton; head of the Institute of Health Visiting considers that babies and children may suffer resultant long-term damage.
Today, Boris Johnson in an open letter to parents pledged:
‘When all this is over, we’re going to be putting hundreds of millions of pounds into nationwide catch-up programmes so that nobody gets left behind.’
Helen Clark, Campaign Manager for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign and Lead Author for the APPG on A Fit and Healthy Childhood commented:
‘We welcome the fact that the Prime Minister is intending to splash the cash on ‘catch up’ schemes when the pandemic is over, but what will he do NOW to avert Covid’s devastating mental health legacy to our children?
He must announce a fully-funded Covid recovery mental health strategy for children and young people to take immediate effect.
Parents do deserve praise.
But most of all, they deserve a Prime Minister who will ‘rise to the challenge’ and act NOW to protect future generations from suffering the mental health effects of Covid -19 long after their parents and grandparents have received their own protection; courtesy of the vaccine programme.’