The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health of children and adolescents

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för medicinsk biokemi och mikrobiologi

Abstract: The rapidly spreading pandemic of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) infection with high morbidity and mortality has overwhelmed the global healthcare services. With mysterious origins and the capacity of affecting multiple types of tissues, SARS-CoV-2 has baffled many scientists - which has posed great challenges in the development of pharmaceutical treatments and preventions (i.e., vaccination). The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to a slew of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to slow down the spread of the virus. The sudden imposition of these NPIs including social distancing, lock-down, school closures, isolation, and quarantine of suspected cases or contacts, has greatly affected the mental health of children and adolescents. Concerns about the impact of these NPIs on mental health, especially for vulnerable populations such as children and adolescents, have emerged. This study discusses several different aspects of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of children and adolescents.Accumulating evidence has shown that the vast majority of children and adolescents exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus are asymptomatic, although few cases turned unfortunately severely ill. The genomics, microbiology, and biochemistry of this novel coronavirus reveal several peculiarities, making it a tough entity. The profound impact of social distancing along with the closure of schools, parks, and other recreational activities on the delicate minds of children and adolescents makes them irritable, angry, and rebellious. This assumes a major challenge in children with mental health issues or in those with special needs. Lock-down, quarantine and isolation further complicate the mental health issues and are discussed along with remedial measures. The impact of an already overwhelmed medical care system on the mental healthcare quality can be profound and needs a specially chartered approach by the psychiatrists supplementing the COVID-19 control activities. Children/adolescents with neuropsychiatric issues need special care, as they have abnormal impulsive behaviour and actions such as running away, unhygienic acts, spitting etc. All these mental health issues in children and adolescents, who form a sizable population of the society and are the future of the planet, forms the subject matter of this work. Thus, all programmes of COVID-19 control must simultaneously address these important mental health issues of children and adolescents to prevent this ‘parallel pandemic’ of psychiatric disorders. The latter may persist much longer and prove equally challenging and costly.

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