THREE million children in the UK are at risk of developing mental health problems due to the coronavirus pandemic, research has found.
As the Covid-19 lockdown continues, parents have to find ways to explain to their children what the situation means, as many continue to ask when they will be able to go back to school and when they will be able to see their friends again.
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As schools remain closed and children spend more time with their parents and loved ones, it might not always be clear how they are feeling.
The Sun previously launched the You're Not Alone campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues and encourage people to seek help.
A recent survey of 1,000 UK parents found that over a third of their children’s mental health (29 per cent) had been negatively impacted since the start of the pandemic that has so far killed over 32,000 people in the UK.
From bad moods to tantrums, what are the nine signs you need to watch out for?
1. Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming themselves
Perhaps more of a direct clue, but if things get really bad, you might notice your child begins self-harming or cutting their skin.
You might not see the evidence of such action right away, but you might notice your child is covering up more or trying to hide their skin, which might be a sign of self-harming.
While there are some key warning signs to look out for, they can vary from child to child.
The research from healthcare provider Benenden Health found that there has been an increase in serious physical symptoms from children who are struggling to deal with their emotions because of the virus.
It found that 5 per cent of children had been grinding their teeth, a further 5 per cent losing hair and 4 per cent self-harming.
2. Bad mood that won't go away
A child suffering mental health problems will begin to feel persistently down.
The research found that the biggest behavioural changes in children included them being increasingly agitated, moody or upset, with 66 per cent displaying such signs, 42 per cent have been misbehaving more, while 38 per cent have bee crying more than usual.
3. Low self-esteem
If your child talks about feeling guilty or worthless, it might be a sign that they've lost their confidence, which could be linked to a mental illness.
The NHS describes it this as feeling "empty or unable to feel emotions" or "numb".
4. Tearful or emotional outbursts
Another key sign to look out for is anger and emotional outbursts.
These will be much bigger than the usual outburst a child might have when they are defying their parents.
The research found that 16 per cent of children were become agitated as they do not understand what is happening, their lack of understanding of the situation could make them feel hopeless, therefore inducing tears and crying.
5. Lack of concentration
As children are no longer attending lessons at school, it may be difficult for them to concentrate in a less regimented environment. Most parents at home with their children are new to the concept of home schooling and might not be able to spot when their child is struggling to concentrate if they have never observed them in an educational setting.
Some key signs to look out for is if your child is struggling to make up their mind, or if they appear they don't care about something and the consequences their actions may have.
11 per cent of children are reportedly more worried about missing out on education than their own health, with just five per cent saying this was a concern.
6. Lack of interest in fun things they used to love
Another sign is that they might lose interest in activities they used to enjoy.
For instance, if your child had a hobby and they have suddenly stopped doing it and don't want to replace it with another activity.
WHY IS MY CHILD SUFFERING A MENTAL ILLNESS?
Things that increase the risk of a mental illness such as anxiety or depression in children include:
- family difficulties
- physical, emotional or sexual abuse
- a family history of depression or other mental health problems
- Sometimes it is triggered by one difficult event, such as parents separating, a bereavement or problems with school or other children.
- Often it's caused by a mixture of things. For example, your child may have inherited a tendency to depression and also have experienced some difficult life events.
7. Trouble sleeping
Another really important sign to look for is if your child is having problems sleeping.
It might also be that they don't want to get out of bed, or sleep in for hours longer than usual.
8. Feeling tired all the time
If your child seems unable to relax or is more lethargic than usual, this could be a clue that something isn't quite right.
According to the NHS, being irritable or grumpy all the time may also be a tell-tale sign.
9. Eating less or binge eating
Any sudden change in your child's eating habits might signal a mental health problem.
Some might even have physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach aches, the NHS said.
The research also found that nearly a fifth of parents have not been able to access the help and resources needed to help their children, while 37 per cent said they had not even tried to find help despite their children struggling mentally through the pandemic.
Benenden Health has now provided a platform where parents an go to access help and advice.
Head matron Cheryl Lythgoe said it was "understandable" that the Covid-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on our physical and mental health, regardless of age.
"Children across the country are likely to have never experienced anything like this before and the disruption, uncertainty and change is shown to be taking its toll on their mental health, whether worrying about school work and exams, isolation from friends and family or being scared about their health or that of their loved ones.
"It is vitally important that during these difficult times, support is available to everyone – regardless of age or circumstance – and certainly for parents and children themselves. Taking the time now to talk, seek help and support each other can be crucial in getting through these challenging times together and promoting positive mental health for once we are out the other side."
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