Children’s mental health may suffer during pandemic, says WHO

Children could be feeling fearful that they or their loved ones will die during the coronavirus pandemic, health officials have warned.

The European branch of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said children may express irritability or anger as they try to understand the current situation.

Establishing routines, extra love and support and being honest with them could help, experts said.

Dr Aiysha Malik, technical officer at the WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, said: “This is an unprecedented time for us all, especially children who have faced disruption to their lives.”

She added: “Children are likely to be experiencing worry, anxiety and fear and this can include the hopes and fears that are very similar to the fears adults are experiencing – a fear of dying, a fear of their relatives dying, a fear of what it means to receive medical treatments.

“If schools have closed, then children may no longer have that sense of structure and stimulation that is provided by that environment.

“And now they have less opportunity to be with their friends and get that social support.

“And though children are very perceptive to change, younger children may struggle to understand the changes that have taken place, and may, as well as older children, express irritability and anger.

“Through all of these, people may want to be closer to their parents and have more demands on them, and in turn some parents or care givers might be under undue pressure themselves.”

She added that the WHO will be releasing a book addressing children’s mental health issues as a result of the pandemic for youngsters aged four to 10.

Other steps children and their carers can take include: giving children the love and attention they need to resolve their fears; being honest with them about explaining the situation in a way they can understand; helping them to find ways to express themselves through creative activities; and providing structure in a day through establishing routines.