Children’s mental health must be prioritised, psychologists warn
Leading psychologists have warned that the delay in getting children back to school equates to “a national disaster” that is putting young people’s mental health at risk.
In an open letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, they cautioned that the isolation of lockdown is already harming vulnerable young people.
Highlighting the low risk that COVID-19 has on children, the letter – signed by more than 100 specialists and published in the Sunday Times [paywall] – called for social distancing measures to be minimised.
It follows groundbreaking research from Young Minds, which found increased anxiety, depression and a sense of loss and fear in children since lockdown started.
They write: “The lockdown exacerbates feelings of entrapment, loneliness, hopelessness and anger, risk factors that can lead to thoughts of self-harm.
“We are united as we urge you to reconsider your decision and to release children and young people from lockdown.”
Schools were shut across the UK on 20 March in order to minimise the spread of the virus. Some pupils returned to the classroom on 1 June, but most will now not return to school until after the summer holidays.
The letter, which is signed by more than 100 specialists in psychology, mental health and neuroscience, urges the government to allow children “to play together and to continue their education by returning to preschool, school, college and university as soon, and as normally, as possible.”
Ellen Townsend, professor of psychology at the University of Nottingham, told the BBC that the resulting school closures could increase anxiety and the feeling of isolation, particularly among teenagers.
The letter ends with a warning of “lifelong consequences” for children, and society.
Parent Zone has a wealth of resources to help children with their mental health, including articles on eating disorders and lockdown, socially distant play and how to look after your mental health when you’re stuck indoors.