COVID-19 pandemic causing poor mental health in third of children

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MORE THAN three million children in the UK could be struggling with poor mental health due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research from not-for-profit healthcare provider, Benenden Health.

Nearly a third of parents (29 per cent) revealed they have seen a negative impact on their children’s mental wellbeing since the outbreak of the virus, whilst an additional four in ten (40 per cent) said they never talk about mental health with their children, suggesting there could be even more suffering in silence during the pandemic.

Children across the country are likely to have never experienced anything like this before and the disruption, uncertainty and change is shown to be taking its toll on their mental health

Cheryl Lythgoe, Head Matron at Benenden Health

As a result of the findings, Benenden Health has developed a dedicated COVID-19 hub, providing online materials and advice for individuals including children and parents to help them manage their health and wellbeing at this challenging time.

With the long-term impact on wellbeing yet to be fully understood, parents noted an increase in serious physical symptoms of poor mental health in their children since the COVID-19 outbreak began, with five per cent of children grinding teeth, a further five per cent losing hair and four per cent self-harming. More unsurprisingly, the biggest behavioural changes in children include being increasingly agitated, moody or upset (66 per cent), misbehaving more (42 per cent) and crying more than usual (38 per cent).

As many as one in six children (16 per cent) are reported to be suffering by not understanding what is going on, whilst the leading cause of stress was revealed to be missing friends, with four in ten parents (39 per cent) reporting this to be the main contributor to their negative mental wellbeing. Children are reportedly more worried about missing out on education (11 per cent) than their own health (five per cent) or that of their friends (two per cent).

Helping children understand the changing world is key

Despite these concerns, nearly a fifth of parents (18 per cent) said they haven’t been able to access support or resources to help address mental health issues in children, whilst more than a third (37 per cent) have not even tried to source help despite the challenges they and their children are facing at this time.

The organisation’s research also found that parents themselves are suffering due to the pandemic, with a quarter (24 per cent) revealing that balancing working from home with childcare is having a negative impact on their mental health. Almost half of these said they were stressing about their children’s education (47 per cent) and a third about their lack of exercise (34 per cent). One in ten respondents (nine per cent) also revealed that they do not believe they are being a good parent during the lockdown due to their work commitments.

Cheryl Lythgoe, Head Matron at Benenden Health, said: “COVID-19 is understandably having a significant impact on our physical and mental health, regardless of who we are or how old we are.

“Children across the country are likely to have never experienced anything like this before and the disruption, uncertainty and change is shown to be taking its toll on their mental health, whether worrying about school work and exams, isolation from friends and family or being scared about their health or that of their loved ones.

One in six children are reported to be suffering by not understanding what is going on,

“It is vitally important that during these difficult times, support is available to everyone – regardless of age or circumstance – and certainly for parents and children themselves. Taking the time now to talk, seek help and support each other can be crucial in getting through these challenging times together and promoting positive mental health for once we are out the other side.”

Benenden Health dedicated COVID-19 hub offers advice on how to stay physically and mentally healthy throughout the coronavirus pandemic. For more information, go to https://www.benenden.co.uk/coronavirus/.


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