At the start of the pandemic, the CDC indicated that children and adolescents were considered the lowest risk group for medical problems and complications from Covid-19. As the pandemic rages on, we are seeing an increase in pediatric Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations and we are seeing a global syndemic of mental health issues among young people.
I’ve written about the pandemic’s profound impact on youth mental health in the past, but a new study from the University of Calgary showing that symptoms of depression and anxiety have doubled in children and women. adolescents around the world compared to the pre-pandemic era is more than a cause to sound the alarm again. This study is further evidence that many different demographics will suffer from Covid-19-related post-traumatic stress disorder (CV-PTSD).
The University of Calgary study is a meta-analysis that brings together data from 29 separate studies from around the world, including 80,879 young people around the world. The meta-analysis includes 16 studies from East Asia, four from Europe, six from North America, two from Central and South America, and one from the Middle East. Before the pandemic, the rates of generalized anxiety and clinically significant depressive symptoms in large cohorts of young people were approximately 11.6% and 12.9%. The meta-analysis found that the combined estimates of clinically elevated depression and anxiety in children and adolescents were 25.2% and 20.5%, respectively, suggesting that the two have likely doubled.
The most alarming result was that mental health issues were more common as the pandemic persisted. Indicating that as the pandemic continues, mental health problems worsen and worsen among young people. A potential 2-4 year delay is often seen between the traumatic event and the development of a mental health disorder, meaning that while we may see some of the initial effects of the pandemic, we will continue to see more of it. over the next 2 years. -4 years.
Dr. Sheri Madigan, PhD, co-author of the article and clinical psychologist at the University of Calgary, believes the unpredictability of the pandemic is contributing to this increase. “We continue to see the aggravating effects of the pandemic,” she said. “It’s confusing for kids because they can’t predict what their surroundings will be like, and we know that when their world lacks predictability and controllability, their sanity suffers.”
The researchers also found that women and older youth were both at higher risk for depression and anxiety. For many children and adolescents, life during the pandemic hardly resembles a typical childhood. Critical developmental needs are not met as children are isolated from their friends and miss typical school activities such as sports teams and performing arts productions or milestones like prom and graduation . In particular, adolescent brains are designed to seek out new social and romantic connections that allow them to develop a sense of status and self-worth, essential for managing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Family members often cannot fill the void left by diminished socialization with peers, leading to increased rates of loneliness among young people.
Lead author of the study and clinical psychologist, Dr Nicole Racine, PhD, believes this may be a contributing factor to these dramatically increasing rates of depression and anxiety. “Once you enter your teenage years, you start to differentiate yourself from your family members, and your peers can actually become your most important source of social support,” says Racine. “This support was drastically reduced, and in some cases completely absent, during the pandemic. “
Research shows that routines promote healthy socio-emotional development in early childhood, however, with the constant reopening and closing of schools, daycares, and extracurricular activities, this can be difficult to maintain. A structured and predictable home environment can also help children develop self-regulatory skills to identify and deal with their feelings and not get overwhelmed. But with the financial impact of the pandemic and the increased psychological stress placed on parents and caregivers juggling work and childcare, it may not always be possible to provide such an environment. But rebuilding and maintaining routines with children for sleeping, eating, and caring for their bodies will be critical to their recovery.
But the burden cannot be solely on parents and caregivers. As this problem continues to worsen, we must implement a stimulus package now. Children’s hospitals in Canada are reporting a 100% increase in mental health-related admissions and McMaster Children’s Hospital, in particular, has reported a 200% increase in suicide attempts among children. As a result, children’s hospitals and human rights organizations across Canada have come together to create a #codePINK campaign. The term “Code Pink” is used to declare a pediatric emergency, and the campaign calls on the federal and provincial / territorial governments to act immediately to deal with this emergency. We need a similar call to action in the United States and around the world, rapid expansion and increased access to mental health services. Young people have some of the highest unmet mental health care needs. The development of specialized services such as mental health hubs for young people will go a long way in bridging this disparity.
Finally, the impact on the mental health of young people is another reason to ensure that our schools and daycares implement policies of vaccination, masking, physical distancing, testing and tracing, and use surveillance of ventilation and sewage to reopen safely. Only then can children begin to claim the experiences necessary for healthy social and emotional development.