There has been a sharp increase in the number of calls to ChildLine of youth in distress struggling to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on their lives.
The demand for help was “unprecedented,” according to the child helpline, which provided more than 900 counseling sessions to children and youth concerned about the virus, peaking last Wednesday, when the government announced the closure of schools across England.
The appellants said that they felt anxious and isolated, especially with the loss of support that the school provided them. A teenage girl with mental health issues told a counselor that her appointment with the Child and Youth Mental Health Services (CAMHS) had been canceled.
“I feel really anxious, upset and alone,” she said. “The news made my mental health worse, but my CAMHS appointment was canceled and the school closed.”
The government announced last week that schools and colleges will be closed indefinitely to slow the spread of the coronavirus, apart from a skeleton childcare service for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.
Peter Wanless, Executive Director of the children’s charity NSPCC, said, “The 24/7 information cycle on coronavirus causes enormous concern and anxiety among young people – especially those who are already facing many other problems in their lives.
“While we all face unprecedented events in modern times, keeping children safe and providing space for them to speak out about their concerns is our number one priority.”
According to ChildLine, parents’ concerns about the spread of the virus are already having an impact on their children. “My mom and I have a good relationship,” said one caller, “but she’s really obsessed with the news and won’t take me or be very close to me.
“It scares me to think it will last for months. She is constantly talking about the coronavirus and my anxiety is getting worse. “
ChildLine staff and volunteers are considered key workers by the government. Although the number of counselors is decreasing because some volunteers have had to isolate themselves, founder Esther Rantzen said their work would continue to be vital in the public health emergency.
“Sometimes young people find it difficult to share their anxieties with their parents, for fear of worrying them more. It is therefore important that families talk about their feelings together, ”she said.
“We hear from children who have been cut off from vital support networks such as school and their friends, which has increased their feelings of loneliness and vulnerability. They may have preexisting mental health problems which are exacerbated by the current crisis. “
Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Layla Moran said the decision to close schools and cancel exams was the right one, but it had left thousands of children worried or stressed for their future.
“If the government is to focus on saving lives, the Prime Minister must understand the impact of this crisis on the mental health and well-being of our country.
“The Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to pay what it will cost to get all of the students and staff the resources they need to continue learning at home. For their well-being and for their future, we must give children something positive and productive. “
More than three in five (63%) coronavirus counseling sessions were with girls, and almost two in five (37%) were children aged 12 to 15 years.
* The ChildLine toll free number is 0800 1111. More details on contact the organization can be found here.