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Educational psychologist says covid-19 pandemic has substantially affected mental health of children

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“This has been one of the most traumatic events in our lifetime,” said Dr Yusuf Lalkhen, an educational psychologist.

Speaking on the VOC’s Breakfast show on Thursday, Dr Lalkhen described the year 2020 as an extremely debilitating year for the youth and their overall mental wellbeing.

South Africa recorded over 10,000 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours for the first time since August 1. SA’s highest ever single-day increase in cases was on July 24, when 13,944 new infections were recorded. Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize warned that additional restrictions could be put in place if the rise in cases continues.

“It is important for our community to understand what impact the pandemic has had on our mental wellness in conjunction with our physical health. The nature of the pandemic has to be more generally understood,” stated Dr Lalkhen.

Lalkhen said the onset of the pandemic was sudden. Dr Lalken spoke of the importance of family ties during the global pandemic. The well-being of caregivers or parents can directly impact the mental health of the children.

“The pandemic has affected every dimension of our lives. Children have been out of touch with their schools, sports clubs, friends and family. It has affected them tremendously and of course we don’t know when it’s going to end and how its going to end. The nature of the disease is that its unpredictable and that can be terrifying,” detailed Lalkhen.

Previous studies on severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and Ebola have revealed that the disease causes severe emotional distress during the outbreaks. The situation of COVID-19 is comparable with the MERS and SARS, as similar claims made about the severity of MERS caused fear, worry, and anxiety among the public.

“We have seen a range of diagnosis but most of them relate to stress, anxiety and depression. Young people are really reacting very badly and I really urge parents to be more mindful of our young people and the challenges that they have faced and are facing,” detailed Dr Lalkhen.

The large understanding of COVID-19 has expanded throughout the world, yet its immediate and long-term mental health impacts on kids are is not easy to estimate. It is imperative that the guardians, schools, and health authorities protect and guard the mental health of children consistently. However, in order to do so. Parents and gaurdians need to ensure that they have done some introspection and made sure they are fit to deal with the problems of their children.

“If I’m not coping as an adult how can I expect my child to be coping,” asked Dr Lalkhen.

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