Impact of Covid-19 on poor mental health in children and adolescents ‘tip of the iceberg’: UNICEF

New analysis indicates lost contribution to economies due to mental disorders among young people estimated at nearly $390 billion a year.

mental health

NL Today

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Kathmandu: Children and young people could feel the impact of Covid-19 on their mental health and well-being for many years to come, UNICEF warned in its report on Thursday.

According to ‘The State of the World’s Children 2021; On My Mind: promoting, protecting and caring for children’s mental health’, even before Covid-19, children and young people carried the burden of mental health conditions without significant investment in addressing them.

According to the latest available estimates, more than one in seven adolescents aged 10–19 is estimated to live with a diagnosed mental disorder globally.

Almost 46,000 adolescents die from suicide each year, among the top five causes of death for their age group, according to the report. Meanwhile, wide gaps persist between mental health needs and mental health funding. The report finds that about two percent of government health budgets are allocated to mental health spending globally.

“It has been a long, long 18 months for all of us – especially children. With nationwide lockdowns and pandemic-related movement restrictions, children have spent indelible years of their lives away from family, friends, classrooms, play – key elements of childhood itself,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

“The impact is significant, and it is just the tip of the iceberg. Even before the pandemic, far too many children were burdened under the weight of unaddressed mental health issues. Too little investment is being made by governments to address these critical needs. Not enough importance is being placed on the relationship between mental health and future life outcomes.”

Children’s mental health during Covid-19

According to early findings from an international survey of children and adults in 21 countries conducted by UNICEF and Gallup – which is previewed in The State of the World’s Children 2021 – a median of 1 in 5 young people aged 15–24 surveyed said they often feel depressed or have little interest in doing things.

As Covid-19 heads into its third year, the impact on children and young people’s mental health and well-being continues to weigh heavily. According to the latest available data from UNICEF, globally, at least 1 in 7 children has been directly affected by lockdowns, while more than 1.6 billion children have suffered some loss of education.

The disruption to routines, education, recreation, as well as concern for family income and health, is leaving many young people feeling afraid, angry, and concerned for their future. For example, an online survey in China in early 2020, cited in The State of the World’s Children, indicated that around a third of respondents reported feeling scared or anxious. Mental- health features as one of the top three concerns of children adolescent according to community respondents in Nepal.

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