Impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of children in the UK

Studies assessing the effect of the pandemic on the mental health of children in the UK have been getting on throughout the pandemic.

Kids aged between the ages of 6 to 16 with possible mental health disorders had increased from one in nine in the year 2017 to one in six in both years 2020 and 2021.

COVID-19 disrupted the lives of children and young people beyond recognition. During the duration of the pandemic, studies have been taking place to assess the impact on young people’s mental health, but some of these studies are of poor quality and so potentially misleading.

The MHCYP Survey has indicated a deterioration in the mental health and total wellness of youths and also discovered that the proportion of kids between the ages of six and sixteen with possible mental health ailments had heightened from one nine in the year 2017 to one in six in both 2020 and 2021.

They also stated that follow-up surveys suggest that this deterioration was seen across age groups, gender, and ethnicity.

Kids from families who encounter financial, food insecurity, or poor parental mental health have reported worse mental health.

Children and young people respond differently and also encounter varied challenges, which is one explanation that verifies that different researchers may report conflicting findings.

The closure of schools affected some families harshly. Some kids and young people went hungry, had insufficient or non-existent lessons and little or no communication with their schools. The educational charity the Sutton Trust took a poll of parents in the UK and found that 34% of children and young people were spending two hours or less learning each day during the first lockdown.

Families facing problems such as financial insecurity, domestic violence or pre-existing mental health issues, were at a heightened risk of descent into vicious circles of escalating distress.

The quantity of schoolwork that young people were able to complete during school closures was affected by how capable their parents were to support their learning. One in ten parents reported that they lacked devices such as tablets or computers to support remote schooling. This number significantly increased in households with just one parent. Poor access to remote schooling was associated with poorer mental health.

The area of concern here isn’t academic attainment as school is where many kids develop peer relationships and improve their social skills, particularly given that most reside in small nuclear families. When they are necessary, we should support the most susceptible families to establish safe childcare bubbles to enable time outside the family home.

Another area of concern is the vast increase in emergency and urgent referrals for young people with eating disorders. This is linked with a minor but still significant increase in regular referrals reported by NHS England.

Instability of mental health is hardly startling at a time of global crisis. However, mental health conditions which start in childhood often persist for years. Kids pay a heavy developmental price as mental health problems influences their ability to function.

As children and adolescent mental health services continue to struggle to meet demand during the post-pandemic, it is important that policies to improve provision are made to move the current situation from partially successful to completely successful. An urgent concerted response is needed to promote mental health among children and young people across all services who work with kids and their families.

Finally, aside from the mental health of kids, it is also important to take care of the health and well-being of kids and their families as new variants of Coronavirus keep popping up. Observing Covid safety protocols and carrying out tests like the Rapid covid test, Same day covid test, and Pcr test London when suspicions of there being a Covid infection in kids and members of the family should be the topmost priority.

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