How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted on the mental health of teenagers?

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the physical health of younger people in the same way it has the older population, but it has had impacted seriously on their mental health.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists recently revealed that children and teenagers are bearing the brunt of the mental health crisis caused by the pandemic.

 

Its analysis found that:

 

  • 80,226 more children and young people were referred to CYP mental health services between April and December last year, up by 28 per cent on 2019, to 372,438.
  • 600,628 more treatment sessions were given to children and young people, up by a fifth on 2019 to 3.58 million.
  • 18,269 children and young people needed urgent or emergency crisis care, including assessments to see if someone needs to be sectioned because they or others are at harm, an increase of 18 per cent on 2019, to 18,269.

 

Younger people have always been prone to suffering varying levels of mental illness.

After all, it’s tough growing up, but there has been a marked increase in children reporting a wide range of symptoms since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Anxiety, panic attacks, self-harm, and anorexia are all on the rise, with many youngsters reporting they feel a lack of hope for the future.

There may be very tangible reasons for this.
A young person may have experienced bereavement, or have concerns about their school or university work, or worries about family members, but there may not be an obvious reason apart from unspecific fears.

A breakdown in routine, together with uncertainty, means that young people are dealing with multiple pressures they are simply not equipped to deal with.

Other factors which cause young people to suffer mental health problems include bullying, and online bullying, body dysmorphia, low self-esteem and a lack of support within the family.

While the actual impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will not be known for a while, experts agree that preventative action needs to be taken now.

In a trends in suicide report, the BMJ states: “Tackling known risk factors that are likely to be exacerbated by the pandemic is crucial.

“These include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, hopelessness, feelings of entrapment and burdensomeness, substance misuse, loneliness, domestic violence, child neglect or abuse, unemployment, and other financial insecurity.

“Appropriate services must be made available for people in crisis and those with new or existing mental health problems.

“Of greatest concern is the effect of economic damage from the pandemic.

“One study reported that after the 2008 economic crisis, rates of suicide increased in two thirds of the 54 countries studied, particularly among men and in countries with higher job losses.”

Parents too can play their part by looking out for signs that their child is suffering a mental health crisis.

These include:

 

  • Rapid mood swings
  • Extreme energy or lack of it, sleeping all the time, or being unable to sleep
  • Severe agitation, pacing
  • Talking very rapidly or non-stop
  • Confused thinking or irrational thoughts
  • Thinking everyone is out to get them or seeming to lose touch with reality
  • Experiencing hallucinations or delusions
  • Making threats to others or themselves
  • Isolating themselves from friends and family, not coming out of their room
  • Not eating or eating all the time, rapid weight loss or gain
  • Suicidal thoughts and statements such as “I want to die” or even possible vague statements such as “I don’t want to be here anymore”

 

The Marandi Foundation is also dedicating its work to providing young people with mental health and wellbeing support services.

It has been working with The Royal Foundation to overcome the stigma associated with mental ill health.

The Royal Foundation is the charity founded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to make a difference, and one of its main causes is mental health, especially that of young people.

It has been bringing various agencies together to explore more creative solutions to the problem.

They work with mental health charities to support young people, and have launched a series of initiatives, including the Heads Together campaign which has taken the issue of mental health into the football arena, to highlight problems among males, especially young men who are much more at risk of committing suicide (suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK).

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