Covid-19: The Cost to Children in the UK and Across the World
As a nation we are, of course, incredibly concerned about protecting our children and ensuring that we keep them as safe as we can. But sometimes the very act of keeping them safe can lead to other complex issues that conversely put them at risk. For the last 4 months, we’ve been constantly bombarded with information about the crisis via mainstream and social media, a never ending reminder of the global pandemic and its threat to our physical health, as well as our mental wellbeing. From the research that has already been carried out we know that Covid-19 has had a significant impact on children’s mental health in particular, and despite the fact that lockdown measures are starting to ease, we recognise that challenging times are still ahead.
The Impact of Lockdown on Children’s Mental Health
Research has identified that during the lockdown in the UK, 36% of children said to their parents that they were feeling lonely. The YouGov survey also found that almost a third of parents (32%) of five to 18-year olds noticed negative changes in their children’s behaviour during the same period. Common behaviours during the lockdown included tantrums, meltdowns, nightmares, stomach aches, fighting and crying. This is not surprising considering that nearly a quarter (22%) of children were (and most likely still are) concerned a family member or close friend could die from catching Coronavirus. This highlights the emotional turmoil experienced by children and young people and paints a bleak picture of fear, insecurity and isolation that schools and other organisations will need to guide children through when they return to school in September.
How Have Children Reacted to the Covid-19 Crisis?
Children can experience a crisis like this differently to adults. They pick up on anxiety around them and are likely to become destabilised by changes in their daily routines and strict restrictions on their movements, alongside picking up on the anxieties of those around them. Their emotions become disturbed and confused and often they do not have the emotional language to manage this well. Many begin to act out their anxiety through challenging behaviour or by becoming withdraw. There is a marked gender difference in the way their anxieties are self-managed; Girls were seen to be more anxious and that could manifest itself in physical symptoms too, like tummy aches; whereas boys seemed to become more boisterous and challenging.
How Can We Address the Concerns Raised By Covid-19?
It is important that all members of staff in school, as well as parents and carers, discuss these concerns in an age appropriate way with children, ensuring that they approach this sensitively and acknowledge how the child is feeling. Support may need to be given in order to properly recognise and label those feelings. It is also important to stress that emotions are neither good nor bad - they simply are, and we may feel differently about things to those around us, and that is just fine.
The Global Impact of Covid-19 To Children and Young People
The UK is not alone in facing a mental health crisis in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic; this is a world-wide problem. As such, the Coronavirus crisis and the restrictive measures that many countries are taking to contain the outbreak will have a negative impact on people's mental health and wellbeing throughout the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.
"Isolation, physical distancing, the closure of schools and workplaces are challenges that affect us, and it is natural to feel stress, anxiety, fear and loneliness at this time," the director of the European branch of the WHO, Hans Kluge, said on Thursday (26 March).
Mental Health issues are hugely concerning, but the devastating effects of Coronavirus will be manifold. A leading world charity has released shocking statistics regarding the secondary effects of Covid-19 on some of the world’s most vulnerable children.
The report analyses the devastating secondary impacts on children of the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak, and models what are the likely consequences in the 24 most fragile countries covered by the UN’s Covid-19 humanitarian appeal.
- As many as 30 million children’s lives are in danger from secondary health impacts:
- 26 million+ children at greater risk of being exposed to other deadly diseases for lack of immunisation whilst Covid takes both priority and financial prioritisation
- 5 million+ children could suffer from increasing malnutrition, an increase of almost 40% from current levels
- 100,000+ children could die from malaria, a 50% increase from current levels
Covid-19 is a Children’s Pandemic
The UN has highlighted the devastating impact a Coronavirus outbreak could have in countries already struggling with existing humanitarian crises.
The IMF have stated that the Coronavirus pandemic will turn global economic growth "sharply negative" in 2020, triggering the worst crisis since the 1930's great depression, with only a partial recovery seen in 2021, International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva said governments had already taken fiscal stimulus measures of $8 trillion, but more would be needed. She said the crisis would hit emerging markets and developing countries hardest.
Supporting Our Most Vulnerable People: Children and Adults at Risk
Whenever we see economic hardship at this scale, we know that the vulnerable members of a society are most at risk. The elderly, the children and the disabled. The UN has called upon all Governments to work together, to support others are to try to reduce the on-going impact of this terrible disease.
Here at MyConcern, we’ve been taking proactive steps to support those responsible for the safeguarding of children and young people by offering regular and up-to-date advice and resources, such as webinars, briefings and guides. We are also looking into the ‘Lessons Learned’ by safeguarding practitioners during this time to suggest changes which can be implemented into our ‘new normal’ to better protect the most vulnerable people in our society.
Written by Jackie Shanks