Written by Urvi Sakurikar
Since the COVID-19 outbreak forced the citizens of California into a seemingly endless lockdown, it is a well-known fact that many have been suffering. From people losing their jobs and struggling to provide for their families, to small businesses being forced to close their doors for good, the pandemic has not been easy for most.
However, there is an even more alarming problem, the mental health of children.
According to Dr. Mueller of Rady’s Children Hospital, by forcing children to stay in their home and limiting their chances to interact with their peers, the government caused them to suffer heightened anxiety and depression, creating an especially increased risk for children living in abusive or broken households. This isn’t just speculation, it is been backed up by the numbers.
“Those kids have higher acuity, higher levels of anxiety and depression,” she said, including “social isolation, food insecurity, family stressors at home. There’s a stronger overlay of child abuse issues. Those kids aren’t able to be in school, so they’re enduring more abuse at home.”
“COVID, job loss, social isolation, that’s a global issue for adults and kids,” Mueller said. “But the complexity of that for kids with underlying mental health issues is higher…. They don’t have free meals. Their social network, after-school programs, those are severed.”
From the start of the lockdown in March 2020 to October in the same year, the number of visits to the emergency room due to mental health-related issues among young children and adolescents increased 31% in comparison to the same time last year. Teenagers are missing out on crucial years of their life, and virtual education puts all students, especially those with learning disabilities, at a disadvantage.
If the numbers and current predicament are not devastating enough, research has shown that the negative effects of adverse childhood experiences, such as being forced to shelter at home with limited physical activity and social connection, can last as long as decades after the onset of the trauma.
The irony in all this is that the government has constantly promoted lockdowns and shelter in place orders as a safety measure, when in reality this perpetual quarantine period has created an unprecedented amount of danger for the youth. The pandemic will eventually pass, but the trauma faced by children and adolescents due to lockdowns and extended school closures will not, and it is time for the government to realize that.
Governor Newsom has the ability to end the lockdown and get kids back in school. Florida Governor Ron Desantis recently touted Florida’s ability to keep schools open.
“The evidence has been remarkably clear since the spring that closing schools offers virtually nothing in terms of virus mitigation, but it poses huge costs on our kids, on our parents and on our society,” the governor said.
If Flordia can do it, so can California.
Photo via Tulsakids