Lockdown, COVID-19 scare has a deep impact on kids’ mental health, say experts
The lockdown and coronavirus scare has had a deep and negative impact on young children. In fact, their mental health has gone for a toss. Experts point out the need for seeking urgent help for mental well-being of children with and without disabilities during such tough times.
Ten year old Piyush* (name has been changed) from Bengaluru has been getting dreams about Coronavirus catching him. Due to this, the young boy has regular panic attacks, anxiety and even depression as soon as he wakes up. This is not an isolated incident. The ongoing Coronavirus scare and lockdown has had a deep and negative impact on young minds. This has affected their mental health. In the case of children with disabilities, parents are looking out for ways to keep them occupied. Experts call for urgent need to keep a watch on the mental health of children during such tough times.
Many psychologists and child therapists highlight on how thousands of children from across India are affected by the lockdown due to which they are unable to step outdoors. Zoom calls and other online classes are not necessarily helping everyone. Constant reports about Coronavirus in the news on TV and social media is adding to the panic. Many of them struggle with boredom and isolation. Surveys conducted over the past two months also point out the same.
Dr Radhika K, a Clinical Psychologist from Bengaluru says that lockdown can be difficult on children.
“Being restricted to four walls, having lesser chances of socialising or playing with peers, uncertainty and lack of proper information regarding the need for such a measure etc. can aggravate their existing unhealthy coping mechanisms. Children who are subjected to emotional or sexual abuse within the family or neighbourhood can also be vulnerable to encountering such situations. Hence, there is a need for parents or primary caregivers to be mindful about these and address it in an age appropriate manner with their children”, she says,
K Bhavani, a counsellor who works with an NGO for the lonely, depressed and suicidal in Kochi says, “When children move away from the daily routine, they are disturbed and feel lost very often. Loneliness makes it worse. They might even feel unwanted amongst other people. As they are very sensitive, they would like to see their peers, teachers and usual surroundings from which they are forced to be away from now”.
Schools reopening, online classes and added pressure
Most of the schools are gearing up to start online classes to begin their academic year from June. Yet again, this only causes more anxiety amongst children. This time, along with children parents are also searching in the dark for answers from authorities on protocols that are needed to begin classes.
Seema Lal, Co-founder of TogetherWeCan, a parent support group in Kochi highlights the difficulties that students and schools are going to face soon.
“Hope the government will give it more thought and time for discussing guidelines before allowing schools to go online. There is no harm in waiting till September to train teachers. We are just calling out for some planning before starting as if nothing has happened. Teachers, schools and parents are not ready. But then we expect students to be ready. This is worrying”, says Seema.
If needed, parents must seek help for children during these times. Children must have access to support services during and after lockdown. Schools, social services and NGO’s must be able to monitor children in both rural and urban areas. Early detection is need of the hour. If the child shows symptoms of anxiety and depression, look out for help.
Reassure them that this time too shall pass. Encourage them to take up interesting activities. Spend some positive time with them. Keep regular routines as much as possible.
Children with disabilities are affected as much as their peers. Sangeetha John, whose daughter Sherin has autism says that the first few weeks of lockdown was tough. “Sherin was worried about the whole Coronavirus news. But she overcame her fear through art and poetry. Since she is a poet, she expresses best through poetry”, says Sangeetha.
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