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Youth Mental Health Day 2020: Children on the Coronavirus

Young people's mental health concept

Young people’s lives have been drastically disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students in schools and universities have missed out on educational activities important for their futures, and the issuing of exam grades has been far from smooth.

Social networks, so important in young people’s lives, have also been impossible to sustain as they were before. Many young people who were in work are now unemployed, and those younger people still living at home have had to cope with much more contact with their parents, who themselves have been facing major challenges.

It is not surprising then, though deeply troubling, that a major survey by The Health Foundation as early as April 2020 already found substantially higher levels of anxiety and difficulties in concentrating among young people.

John Oates, Professor of Developmental Psychology in the School of Education, Childhood, Youth & Sport at the OU said:

“Doing our best to support young people’s wellbeing in these difficult times is so important, which is why I’m so pleased to see the launch of Youth Mental Health Day this year. Getting young people, and those who support them, to engage in discussions about how to improve mental health, especially as we start to move into the next phase of this pandemic, is vital.

"Platforms like the NHS MindEd for Families, which I contributed to, are a fantastic resource for anyone to become better informed and equipped to support children and young people’s mental health.”
 

Coronavirus and My Life - Children on the Coronavirus

Despite the clear and evident impact that the Coronavirus has had, and continues to have, on our youngest people, limited space has been given to hearing directly from children about their fears, anxieties and views about COVID-19, until now.

A collaboration between the OU’s Children’s Research Centre (CRC) and Childrenheard will ensure that children, who in terms of mental health, form one of most vulnerable groups of the Coronavirus pandemic, will no longer be silent voices in the debate as society moves forward in the wake of the pandemic.

Childrenheard.com provides an infrastructure enabling children to participate and appreciate their own and their peers’ shared experiences. The platform offers a space for children to submit artwork entitled ‘Coronavirus and my life’; and, in addition, invites children (aged 3-18) to respond to a 15-question survey, gathering their views about what’s important to them at this unprecedented time.

Childrenheard submission - child's drawing (age 6, Norway)Childrenheard submission - child's drawing (age 9, Norway)
Images courtesy of Childrenheard.com

Dr Liz Chamberlain, Senior Lecturer in Education Studies (Primary) and Co-Director of the CRC said:

“Children’s lives, identities, relationships are all being impacted by the pandemic and yet there is such little opportunity for their voices to be part of the collective response. Therefore, engaging children in dialogue about COVID-19 using child-led responses is crucial for school and local authority systems to know how to ‘build back better’ by offering appropriate support in order for children to recover quickly and in decision-making for a ‘new normal’, especially if social distancing remains in the long-term.

"By shifting children to the centre of the debate, advocating they are part of societal response to COVID-19, schools, education, and health services will have a better understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on children and will therefore be better able to shape their response to meet the needs of children.”
 
Resources:
Youth Mental Health Day (Monday 7th September 2020): https://stem4.org.uk/youthmentalhealthday/ 
MindEd for Families: https://mindedforfamilies.org.uk/  
Children’s Research Centre: http://wels.open.ac.uk/research/childrens-research-centre  
Childrenheard: https://www.childrenheard.com/ 
MIND guidance: Supporting your teen’s wellbeing during coronavirus

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