Virus issues affect kids’ minds heavily - GulfToday

Virus issues affect kids’ minds heavily

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Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

The global coronavirus pandemic is affecting all sections of society and all ages. In particular, the ones who are the hardest hit are children, which is worrisome and calls for serious deliberation – and action.

A Paris paediatric hospital has seen a doubling in the number of children and young teenagers requiring treatment after attempted suicides since September.

In Japan, child and adolescent suicides hit record levels in 2020, according to the Education Ministry.

Paediatric psychiatrists say they’re also seeing children with coronavirus-related phobias, tics and eating disorders, obsessing about infection, scrubbing their hands raw, covering their bodies with disinfectant gel and terrified of getting sick from food.

Also increasingly common, doctors say, are children suffering panic attacks, heart palpitations and other symptoms of mental anguish, apart from chronic addictions to mobile devices and computer screens that have become their teachers and entertainers during lockdowns, curfews and school closures.

In any crisis or disaster, it is the children who are the most prone to the horrible repercussions.

A 2016 report says nearly one in four children growing up in conflict zones are missing out on education, with South Sudan, Niger, Sudan and Afghanistan the worst-affected countries.

An estimated 24 million children of school-going age are out of school in 22 countries affected by conflict, according to the agency’s research.

South Sudan has the largest proportion of children out of school, 51 per cent, followed by 47 per cent in Niger, 41 per cent in Sudan and 40 per cent in Afghanistan.

The same year, a report said women and children in India’s flood-hit eastern region are at risk of being preyed upon by human traffickers and sold into slavery in middle class homes, restaurants and shops.

Charities working in the worst affected regions of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh said trafficking was widespread in the aftermath of previous disasters in the region, such as the floods in Bihar in 2008.

A report two years ago says nearly one in three children in Bangladesh are at risk from cyclones, flooding and other climate change-linked disasters.

In addition, longer-term changes such as rising sea levels are pushing families deeper into poverty and forcing some from their homes, disrupting children’s education and access to health services, Unicef said.

“Children are always the most vulnerable during emergencies – especially during floods, when families are forced to move to higher ground, leaving their homes for an extended period of time,” said Thomas Chandy, CEO of Save the Children India.

Where the pandemic is concerned, some children try to keep their mental anguish to themselves, not wanting to further burden the adults in their lives who are perhaps mourning loved ones or jobs lost to the coronavirus.

Children also may lack the vocabulary of mental illness to voice their need for help and to make a connection between their difficulties and the pandemic.

“They don’t say, ‘Yes, I ended up here because of the coronavirus,” one physician said. “But what they tell you about is a chaotic world, of ‘Yes, I’m not doing my activities any more,’ ‘I’m no longer doing my music,’ ‘Going to school is hard in the mornings,’ ‘I am having difficulty waking up,’ ‘I am fed up with the mask.’”

One doctor said the emergency department at the Bradford Royal Infirmary where he works in northern England used to treat one or two children per week for mental health emergencies, including suicide attempts. The average now is closer to one or two per day, sometimes involving children as young as 8, he said.

“This is an international epidemic, and we are not recognising it,” he remarks.

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