CHILDREN across the UK are suffering from “frightening levels” of depression and anxiety as they struggle to cope with school closures, experts have warned.
Schools across the country are currently closed due to a third national lockdown and top paediatricians have now warned that they need to reopen to avoid further harming the mental health of kids across the UK.
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A group of experts has warned that the lockdown is having significant impact on children’s wellbeing and development.
The government has been clear that schools are at the top of their agenda when it comes to relaxing restrictions.
Boris Johnson said yesterday he hopes to be able to relax some lockdown restrictions in three weeks as ministers mull over reopening schools.
Writing in a letter to The Times today, experts including Andrew Bush, a professor of paediatric respirology, Claire Hogg, a consultant in paediatric respiratory medicine and Ian Balfour Lynn, a specialist in child respiratory medicine have said schools must reopen with vaccines for staff members if we want to stop a “calamitous” impact on the mental health of kids.
They said: “As in the first lockdown, we are witnessing an acute and rapid increase in mental health and safeguarding cases affecting children and parents alike.
“Anxiety, depression and self-harm are all at frightening levels. Parents are showing signs of psychological stress and even breakdown as a result of the pressures of trying to home-school their children and sustain their jobs and businesses.”
They added that the government needed to prioritise teachers and school staff for vaccines to stop kids becoming “long Covid casualties" of the pandemic.
Some children, whose parents are key workers are still attending school with many centres remaining open to care for those kids whose parents cannot work from home.
Today it was revealed that primary school kids could be "resistant" to coronavirus and can head back to school.
Studies by Public Health England have piled on fresh pressure on the PM to reopen schools for younger pupils, after finding there was a "strong case" to get kids behind desks again.
Only 3 per cent of primary schools had outbreaks of coronavirus, even while the number of new infections jumped across the UK as the second wave took hold of the nation.
PHE's chief schools investigator Shamez Ladhani said: “Everything we have learnt from the summer half-term and the recent autumn term indicates that they are safe to remain open."
Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield has called for at least primary schools to return to face-to-face teaching after the February half-term.
Charities have also warned that many young people are going without help and support as they are no longer being referred to services that schools would help them with.
Emma Thomas, chief executive of the mental health charity Youngminds said that over the course of the pandemic young people have struggled to cope with “social isolation, anxiety, a loss of structure and fears about their future”.
Since lockdown started in March, suicide helplines have seen an uptick in calls.
Samaritans has had more than a million calls with Brits and data from Mind suggests that half of Brits felt their mental health had got worse in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.
Earlier this year it was also reported that male suicide rates in England and Wales have reached a 20 year high.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) stated that in 2019 there were 5,691 suicides registered which equates to around 11 deaths per 100,000 of the population.
Every 90 minutes a life is lost to suicide in the UK, which is why The Sun previously launched the You’re Not Alone campaign to remind anyone facing a tough time, grappling with mental illness or feeling like there's nowhere left to turn, that there is hope.
You’re Not Alone
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together,www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans,www.samaritans.org, 116 123
As we spend more and more time at home it could be a harder spot if your child is struggling.
Here are the 5 ways to spot if your child is suffering from feelings of depression.
The NHS states that it's important to remember that depression doesn't just affect adults.
It states: "It's important to get help early if you think your child may be depressed.
"The longer it goes on, the more likely it is to disrupt your child's life and turn into a long-term problem.".
The NHS says that one of the main signs that your child is depressed is if they are expressing a sadness or low mood that isn't going away.
This could mean that your child has withdrawn from talking to you or is spending more time alone than usual.
2. Being irritable
Sometimes when people are depressed they find it hard to think about anything else – this makes everything else seem insigificant to them.
If your child has become snappy or is getting annoyed at small things then try and ask them how they are feeling.
If they don't feel comfortable talking to you about these issues then there are online tools and help lines available where they will be able to talk to people.
3. Feeling tired
If you child says they are feeling tired then it could be a sign that they are depressed.
This is usually because they are struggling to sleep and have strayed from their usual pattern.
Suicidal feelings can be all consuming and can often keep people awake at night.
Try and help them into a routine and set sleep goals.
4. Not being interested in things they used to enjoy
The coronavirus lockdowns have meant that kids can't mix with their friends.
While they are able to connect through social media it's still hard for kids who are used to being at school with their peers five days a week.
The lockdown means that we will be doing more activities at home such as reading or watching our favourite shows, we can also go outside with one other person to exercise.
If your loved one is behaving withdrawn and isn't doing things they enjoy then this could be a sign that they are depressed.
5. Putting themselves down
A common trait of someone who is feeling depressed is to belittle themselves.
This could be by chastising themselves for their behaviour or their school work.
Many kids and parents alike have found home schooling challenging.
But they could also put themselves down for the way they look.
The NHS states that there are other key signs that your child could be feeling depressed and that many kids will display physical symptoms such as stomach aches or headaches.
It states that the other key signs in kids are:
- not being able to concentrate
- interacting less with friends and family
- being indecisive
- not having much confidence
- eating less than usual or overeat
- having big changes in weight
- seem unable to relax or are more lethargic than usual
- talking about feeling guilty or worthless
- feeling empty or unable to feel emotions (numb)
- having thoughts about suicide or self-harming
- actually self-harming, for example, cutting their skin or taking an overdose
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