In more than a third of the counselling sessions we have held with children in Scotland over the past few months, we have heard about struggles with mental and emotional health.
Children and young people have talked to us about feelings of low mood, anxiety and being overwhelmed. Some have experienced panic attacks, are crying more and have felt suicidal.
It is so important that, while we as adults are dealing with the different stresses and worries that the pandemic has brought, we don’t overlook the struggles that our younger generation is currently facing.
They have been confronted with isolation, trying to learn and complete school work with limited or no support, and have had the burden of serious concerns such as ill health and financial difficulties in their families.
One 12-year-old boy, who got in touch, told us: “I am scared about the Coronavirus. I get really anxious that my family and I might get it as a lot of people have died from it already. I’m worried about my mum because she’s pregnant and I’m scared something will happen to her and the baby. It’s really scary because everyone is talking about it and people are sharing stories every day on social media. I don’t know how to cope.”
Since lockdown, Childline has delivered more than 1,250 counselling sessions to children and young people in Scotland for support with mental and emotional health issues.
And even now that lockdown is easing, we know that many young people are still struggling. Some have told us they are anxious about returning to school; worried about catching the virus, exams, school work and how school life will be now. Others have had traumatic experiences through lockdown and will need help and support to recover.
It is crucial that as children return, schools are able to deal with the trauma that young people have faced during the pandemic, whether from abuse and neglect or through increased mental health worries. That is why we at NSPCC Scotland are calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that teachers are equipped to recognise when children need additional support and to respond sensitively.
It is so important that children are given the space to talk about how they are feeling. If you as a parent believe your child may be struggling, then our advice would be to encourage them to talk about their feelings and worries; be calm, honest and informed about the facts and don’t dismiss their fears and reassure them that you are there to listen.
They can also contact Childline; our counsellors are there to listen and support children and young people, no matter how big or small their concern may be.
However, children should always seek support from their GP if mental health concerns are growing and impacting their everyday lives.
More advice can be found at www.nspcc.org.uk