COVID-19: children in difficulty around the world after confinement of six months on average – Save the Children – World
Children around the world have been indoors for an average of six months since the start of the pandemic, with growing concerns over increasing levels of depression, anxiety, loneliness and even self-harm, Save the warned. Children before World Mental Health Day.
New Save the Children analysis, using data from the Oxford COVID-19 Government ResponseTracker, reveals children around the world have been living under obligatory and advised nationwide lockdowns for an average of six months, or 184 days since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.
Venezuelan children faced one of the longest periods at home, with intermittent lockdowns keeping children indoors for up to 16 months.1 In Lebanon, children were confined to their homes for 418 days .2 Across Zimbabwe, children have been confined for almost nine months this year alone.
Save the Children warns that these prolonged closures are having a devastating impact on children’s mental health around the world and urges all governments to include mental health and psychosocial support for children and adolescents in national health services.
Children who experience long-term blockages are at increased risk for emotional distress, loneliness and abuse, as well as a lack of outdoor play and access to mental health supports. In some cases, prolonged stress, uncertainty and social isolation can also lead to anxiety, aggression, withdrawal behavior, even depression and self-harm.
Marie Dahl, head of the mental health and psychosocial support unit at Save the Children, said:
* “A global mental health crisis is unfolding and for some children its adverse effects can be catastrophic. Children living in poverty or already in disadvantaged or vulnerable situations are at greater risk of suffering the negative consequences of long-term confinement. *
* “Being deprived of social stimulation can have serious consequences for children’s mental health and development. While lockdown orders are important in curbing the spread of COVID-19, social isolation can cause feelings of hopelessness, anxiety and depression in children. Failure to respond to this mental health crisis could leave children with long-term well-being, development, and overall health implications, even after the restrictions are lifted. “*
A survey of more than 13,000 children in 46 countries conducted by Save the Children in September last year found that 83% of children reported increased negative feelings as a result of the pandemic. Reports of negative feelings were much higher for the vast majority of children (96%) when schools were closed for 17 to 19 weeks.
Since then, the situation for many children has worsened as countries battled the third or fourth wave of the virus, closures continued and schools in some countries were closed for more than 18 months.
In India, which has recorded more than 448,000 deaths from COVID-19, children across the country have spent at least 100 days at home.45 To support children’s mental health in India, Save the Children has sets up a free telephone helpline for children and young people. struggling in the pandemic. The helpline received over 2,900 calls this year. Stress, anxiety and boredom, as well as uncertainty about the future, are among the top concerns raised on the helpline.
* “I usually get calls from children about how [the] the pandemic has taken its toll on them and their studies. It is stressful for the children to be left at home with nothing to do. It has also led to more and more anger problems in children, ”said Isha, helpline advisor at Save the Children.
Children in almost every country have experienced some form of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. In high-income countries like Canada, some children have been indoors for a total of 13 months or 402 days.6 Although high-income countries have better access to mental health supports, children in these countries may also experience disruption in their online education sleep cycles, play routines, and social interactions, as well as an increased risk of online harm. All of these factors can put children’s mental health at risk.
In Europe, lockdowns have kept children like Naya, 14, at home for an average of nine months.7 Naya, who left Syria for the Netherlands in 2013, knows firsthand the positive impact that the support in mental health and wellness can have. She now advocates for children’s mental health with Save the Children. Last June, she called on the government to better support teachers in providing psychosocial support to refugee children.
“Psychosocial support [that I’ve received] contributed to increase [my] confident in my abilities and realizing that I don’t need to be ashamed of what I’ve been through. My fears and nightmares are gone. Having friends helped me a lot to process my experiences and to feel at home ”, Naya said.
In Nepal, where children have been indoors for up to 12 months since the start of the pandemic, Save the Children is providing treatment counseling to children.8
Rajesh, 18, received advice from Save the Children in Nepal after struggling with feelings of anger and lack of sleep during the lockdown. His school was unable to organize online classes and when he tried to go out for a walk he was arrested by the police.
“* I was afraid that I would not survive and that I would never be able to see new things in my life. I was worried that my dreams would be lost forever *, ”said Rajesh.
Save the Children wants all governments to prioritize and invest in children’s mental health, well-being and learning during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization also calls for the mental health and well-being of children to be recognized as a right, urging governments to tackle the stigma and human rights violations of children with mental disorders and psychosocial disabilities.
With proper care and support, many children who experience high distress from the pandemic will be able to recover and reach their full potential.
However, Ms Dahl of Save the Children said mental health and psychosocial support as part of health, education and protection services urgently need to be funded to better respond to future bottlenecks, as well as to challenges. ‘other emerging challenges, especially in low- and middle-income countries. . Without it, it could have serious consequences for the mental health and development of the next generation.
1 Venezuelan children were subjected to mandatory and recommended confinement measures for a total of 491 days, or 16 months.
2 In Lebanon, children were confined to their homes during nationally required closures for 418 days, or nearly 60 weeks. Looking at both the required and recommended lockdowns for Lebanon, the children spent up to 510 days at home.
3 Zimbabwe’s children suffered nationwide lockdowns for 266 days, or 8.7 months, in 2021 as of October 1.
4 Children in India spent 102 days at home across the country, necessitating closures.
5 According to the WHO, 448,997 people have died from COVID-19 in India as of September 28, 2021: https://covid19.who.int/region/searo/country/in
6 In Canada, children have been kept indoors for up to 402 days during nationwide closures where children have been advised not to leave their homes.
7 According to data, children across Europe have been nationally stranded, recommended and required for an average of nine months, or 274 days since the start of the pandemic.
8 children in Nepal have been nationally stranded, required and recommended for a total of 371 days, just over 12 months since the start of the pandemic.
Notes to editor:
- The Oxford Covid-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT) at the University of Oxford – Blavatnik School of Government collects systematic information on the policies that governments have adopted to respond to the pandemic since 2020. We use data accessible to the public (consulted on October 1, 2021 via Github) to study the data at the national level of its rigor index, in particular the C6 indicator which records orders for “refuge in place” and also confined to the home. We count for each country the number of days since the beginning of 2020 whose population was either obliged not to leave their home (obligatory not to leave their home or with exceptions for essential travel / exercises etc. or with only with minimal exceptions) or unless it is recommended not to leave the house (which also includes the previous case). We do not consider stay-at-home orders or recommended lockdowns in place if these were only applied to a portion of the population. Regional / global averages are weighted by child population in 2017 (United Nations demographics).
- The analysis excludes the following countries due to lack of data: Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, British Virgin Islands, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Montenegro, Nauru, North Macedonia, Palau, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu.
- Despite the alarming rates of mental health problems around the world, governments have long underinvested in mental health care, leaving up to 50% of mental illnesses untreated in developed countries. For developing countries, this figure rises to between 76 and 85%. Untreated Mental Illnesses: Causes and Effects | Princeton Public Health Review
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We have Marie Dahl, manager of the mental health and psychosocial support unit at Save the Children, and Anne-Sophie Dybdal, senior child protection advisor in the mental health and psychosocial support unit of Save the Children, available as a spokesperson.