Mental health impact of Covid pandemic is beginning to show - Elsa Maishman

For some children, the return to school this week after a year of pandemic-related disruption may be a “trauma”, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has warned.

Paediatricians have seen an increase in anxiety in children in the past 18 months, they said, which has manifested itself in physical symptoms like headaches and sore stomachs, in eating disorders and self-harm, and in the most vulnerable children in alcohol abuse, overdoses and drug-related deaths.

The warnings came after new figures showed record numbers of children diagnosed with self-harm related issues in hospital last year.

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And the Mental Health Foundation has warned that mental health-related inequalities have widened during the pandemic.

Picture: PA MediaPicture: PA Media
Picture: PA Media

A survey conducted in June and July showed Scottish adults with long-term physical or mental health conditions were almost 50 per cent more likely to feel anxious about Covid restrictions being eased this summer.

Charities and medical professionals have been warning for nearly 18 months of the negative impact the pandemic would have on Scottish people’s mental health.

These warnings are now translating to hard figures, as more and more retrospective data is released.

National Records of Scotland will release new figures on deaths in 2020 on Tuesday, including those caused by alcohol and suicide.

It follows the increase in drug-related deaths recorded in July.

Few would doubt the pandemic has had a hand in increasing figures such as these, and the self-harm rates in children.

That said, it is too convenient to entirely blame a global disaster for Scotland’s increasing mental health problem.

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Both child self-harm diagnoses and suicides have increased every year since 2015.

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Covid Scotland: Return to school may be ‘traumatic’ for some children

And Scotland’s drug deaths are so much higher than elsewhere in the UK and Europe that they have been a national disgrace for years.

The problems were there before. Covid-19 has just come along and made everything worse.

And as with everything else the pandemic has touched, those most affected have been the most vulnerable.

The RCPCH said it expects to continue to see the impact of Covid-19 on children’s mental health for years to come. Others have warned of this in adults as well.

These sobering statistics are only just beginning to come through, due to the lag in gathering data. It is likely they are just the tip of the iceberg.

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