Children’s consultant concerned about mental toll of lockdown

RATES of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues are expected to go up among Guernsey’s young people as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

Dr James Murray. (28160788)
Dr James Murray. (28160788)

While the biggest ever psychological experiment has no exact precedent, there is a vast body of evidence that dictates what happens to the wellbeing of a population when economic fortunes decline.

The focus of attention right now is on those infected with the contagious virus and how to avoid transmission, but the island’s psychologists are thinking ahead to prepare for the invisible wounds of trauma.

While many pupils welcomed a few extra weeks of holiday off school, the lockdown has started to lose its shine.

Cut adrift from friends, routines and life goals, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to extend long after a vaccine is found.

Dr James Murray, a consultant clinical psychologist at Health & Social Care, works mainly with children.

He is concerned about the mental toll of lockdown.

‘We are anticipating problems and probably the biggest reason, and we have fairly strong evidence about this, is that economic and financial problems are linked to problems in physical and mental health over the very long-term.

‘So we would anticipate there being problems coming up for a long time.

‘We know very strongly from every past recession and economic downturn that there’s evidence of negative consequences for people’s mental and physical health; and if you look at any one point in time the people who experience the most mental and physical health problems are those that are suffering the most in financial terms.’

Play is considered essential for a child’s wellbeing and development, and this has been curtailed because of the lockdown.

Children with no close-aged siblings and those with no access to a garden are likely to be more disadvantaged.

The challenge for Dr Murray now is looking at how to re-introduce play when schools eventually re-open.

‘How do you get Year 7s to play whilst also practising social distancing?

‘Teachers are already thinking about how best to support children to play, and as they start to go back to school we’re thinking about how we can best support children to get back into, as much as possible, normal play and what adaptations we have to make.’

The advice to young people who are struggling to cope with the lockdown is to remember there are two types of worries – those you can do something about and those that you cannot do anything about, and put effort into the former kind.

Linked to that is to find activities that feel meaningful and matter to you, these will be different for different people.

Students should also try to stick to a routine and a structured day, even those pupils who are in Years 11 and 13.

Another tip is to keep up social contact as much as possible, do not try to hide away.

On the Covid-19 pages of the website there are plenty of psychologist-vetted resources such as guides to meditation, free online courses and home workouts.

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