Children’s mental health throughout COVID-19 pandemic

Natalie Escobar, Reporter

Throughout these tough times, many of us have struggled with our mental health. Although, many people might not realise that COVID-19 has also impacted children’s mental health.

Kids Helpline has been one way children who are struggling through the pandemic can find support.

According to Kids Helpline’s virtual services manager Tony Fitzgerald the service has seen a 40% increase in use over March and April and now into May. In April calls had increased up to 50% compared to last year.

“It is difficult for us to know how many of those calls were related to coronavirus, in April we had 37,000 attempts to contact Kids Helpline and that’s a 49% increase in the contacts we got same time last year,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

Teen struggling with anxiety (From New Africa / Shutterstock.com)

Mr Fitzgerald said that the reason children feel the need to contact Kids Helpline more regularly is due to the anxiety the virus has caused.

“The key underlining theme that we’re seeing is around anxiety and the impact on the mental health of children and young people,” he said.

What we have seen in the first 4 months of this year is about a 17% increase in what we call our ‘duty of care’ related calls so that’s usually in relation to suicide, self-harm or child abuse.”

This year Kids Helpline has received 138 calls that were suicide-related compared to the first 4 months of last year where they received 118 calls.

There’s also been a jump in calls related to child abuse with 136 calls being made to Kids Helpline this year compared to 95 made last year.

“There are contacts related to suicide and self-harm but a lot of it is around anxiety. They’re concerned about themselves,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

“A lot of kids haven’t been in school and have not been able to connect with their friends so there’s anxiety around that.

“There’s anxiety around parents, particularly with the unemployment that is happening at the moment. Kids are concerned about their parents and how they might have lost their job.”

Anxiety is the main factor affecting children’s mental health, specifically those aged between 13-17 years old.

Many years 11 and 12’s are struggling with anxiety due to the uncertainty on how the schooling year will continue due to the interruption COVID-19 has caused. Especially year 12’s who are unsure if they will be able to sit their ATAR exams.

“Teenagers, particularly those who are in the later years of school, year 11 and 12 is very important for them.

They will be feeling very anxious about being disconnected from school and the impact that’s going potentially have on their marks and again that’s a perfectly understandable reaction,” he said.

Kids Helpline has been working with children on ways they can find their own solutions, getting them to focus more on what they can control.

They’ve also provided information on how kids can deal with COVID-19 on their website.

https://kidshelpline.com.au/teens/issues/im-not-ready-go-back-normal