PARIS – Governments should pour more money and resources into preserving the mental well-being of children and adolescents, the United Nations’ Child Protection Agency urged in a report on Tuesday, prompting alarm about the trauma to mental health from the COVID-19 pandemic. Ringing which affects the poor and vulnerable children especially hard.
The United Nations Children’s Fund said its “State of the World’s Children” study on the mental health of the world’s children and adolescents is the most comprehensive so far of this century. The coronavirus crisis that forced the closure of schools affecting the lives of children and adolescents has brought to the fore the issue of their mental well-being.
UNICEF said it could take years to fully measure the impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health. Psychiatrists soon saw signs of distress, with children and teens seeking help for suicidal thoughts, anxiety, eating disorders and other difficulties, as lockdowns and switching to distance learning left them isolated from friends and routine and COVID-19. -19 killed parents and grandparents.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said, “With the nationwide lockdown and movement restrictions related to the pandemic, children have spent indelible years of their lives away from the key elements of childhood – family, friends, classes, sports.”
“The impact is significant, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Fore said. “Even before the pandemic, too many children were burdened with mental health issues without attention. Very little investment is being made by governments to meet these critical needs.”
Pediatricians say they already lacked the resources before the pandemic brought a surge in caseloads. UNICEF said spending on promoting and protecting mental health is “extremely low” yet needs remain under pressure. Citing pre-pandemic data from 2019, UNICEF estimated that around 46,000 children and adolescents aged 10 to 19 end their lives each year.
The scale of the crisis related to the epidemic among children and adolescents has spurred some governments into action. France, which is hosting a two-day global summit on mental health this week, has offered free therapy sessions for children and young people and promised to bring that help to everyone with a prescription from next year Is. Elsewhere, counseling hotlines – some newly opened to help people struggling with their mental health during the pandemic – saw increasing demand.
UNICEF said many concerns affect the mental health of children and adolescents, including concerns about possible illness, lockdowns, school closures and other upheavals in their lives. UNICEF said the lockdown also fueled behavior problems, and were felt especially hard by children with autism and attention and hyperactivity disorders.
Distance education was out of reach of millions of youth. UNICEF said one in three school children could not participate because they did not have internet or television. Children from the poorest families were affected the most. It is estimated that two in five children in East and Southern Africa were still out of school as of July.
Even when they haven’t been forced to drop out of school and work to help meet their needs, children are also being impacted by the pandemic’s devastating repercussions for jobs and economies. Is. UNICEF said the crisis had triggered a “sharp increase” in the number of children in poverty, and an additional 142 million children went into poverty last year.
UNICEF has warned that financial constraints and school closures could put more girls at risk of being forced into early marriage as child brides.
Although children and adolescents are less likely to die from COVID-19 than older and more vulnerable people, UNICEF cautioned that the pandemic has tarnished their long-term future and “disrupted their lives”. , and has created genuine concern for their mental health and well-being.”
“It will hang on to the aspirations and lifetime earnings of the generation whose education has been disrupted,” it said. “The risk is that the shocks of this pandemic will affect the happiness and well-being of children, adolescents and caregivers for years to come.”
Subscribe to the bi-weekly newsletter to have health news sent straight to your inbox.