How the Pandemic Impacts Children’s Mental Health
We know that the pandemic has been challenging for most families, but it has been especially hard on those families with children struggling with mental health.
In Return to School During COVID-19: Considerations for Ontario’s Child and Youth Community Mental Health Service Providers, Children’s Mental Health Ontario and its partner, Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, report on how the pandemic is impacting the mental health of children, youth, and their families. The report also outlines existing evidence on the mental health impacts of previous outbreaks and school transitions to help us better understand how COVID-19 may affect children, youth and families in the longer-term.
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Social isolation, removal from school and daily routines, as well as isolation and loss associated with illness are some of the top stressors children are facing. Like so many adults, too, our children are also feeling the impacts of so much uncertainty around how long the pandemic will go on for.
A Return to School
Even in a normal year, the start of the school year brings new challenges and concerns to the forefront of many families across Ontario.
School transitions, including the return to school routine after a summer break can be very stressful on children and youth. Some children struggle with socializing and peer relationships, fear bullying, or face challenges orienting to a new environment. Add to typical back-to-school stressors that kids will now be returning to school in the middle of an ongoing global pandemic.
New stressors for children and youth
Children may be feeling new worries about bringing germs home, or they may be facing stress about the changes in school routines and classmates. Some may want to avoid school because of bullying or because they struggle with managing their mental health at school, and others may experience separation anxiety.
And while going to school in the fall may help to reduce the feeling of isolation that some of our children are experiencing, we know that school will be very different than the way it was in March. There is a lot of uncertainty around what the start of school may look like, not to mention worries about a possible second wave of the virus in the fall.
Some children are especially vulnerable to mental health issues, particularly those with pre-existing mental illness, complex support needs, or those who have undiagnosed mental health concerns. Children and youth who have personally been affected by COVID-19 through illness or loss or those living in low-income or racialized communities are also vulnerable.