Children around the world are still suffering from serious mental health issues from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from UNICEF. The child protection agency is calling on governments everywhere to do more to help.
The United Nations Children’s Fund says there’s a crucial lesson to be learned from COVID. “To prioritize mental health because investing in mental health can be lifesaving for individuals and for our children,” says Zeinab Hijazi, lead author of the UNICEF State of the World’s Children Report.
The report says disruption to education, recreation, and routines is leaving many young people feeling afraid, angry, and concerned for their future. Psychiatrists report a rise in cases of anxiety, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts. “47,000 adolescents are dying from suicide every year, and that is a staggering number,” says Hijazi.
UNICEF says globally only about 2% of government health budgets go toward mental health, that’s less than a dollar per person in some of the poorest nations. “We are calling for policies within schools that protect and address mental health issues amongst children and adolescents,” says Hijazi.
The pandemic prompted France to offer free therapy sessions for children. England set up 24/7 crisis hotlines that have received more than 3 million calls since lockdowns began.
UNICEF says it may take years to expose the pandemic’s full mental health impact on young people.
Pediatric psychiatrists say they were already short of resources before the pandemic brought a surge in caseloads.