This year the world observes World Mental Health Day on October 10. It comes at a time when daily lives have changed considerably as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
World Mental Health Day is observed every year with the objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilising efforts in support of mental health.
Facing the scare of a second wave of coronavirus infections, we need to remember what we learnt from the first: that living through a pandemic can be hard on children.
Research shows that those at greater risk of mental health issues are those children who experienced some form of trauma earlier in life. The anxiety and isolation of these times can trigger their deepest fears.
Lockdown has shown just how important it is for parents and children to care for each other’s mental well-being.
According to the World Health Organization, “Mental health is one of the most neglected areas of public health. Close to 1 billion people are living with a mental health disorder, 3 million people die every year from the harmful use of alcohol and one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide.
And now, billions of people around the world have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is having a further impact on people’s mental health.”
It is important for families with children who have had bad experiences to set a routine. Limit the amount of news accessed, make time to reach out to friends and loved ones virtually, and create space to express frustrations and anger.
In SOS Children’s Villages, some of the children in their care have gone through physical or emotional hardship.
SOS Children’s Villages urges parents and caregivers to pay attention to early warning signs in their children. When you notice behavioural changes, from aggression to withdrawal, don’t ignore it.
Taking care of your child’s mental health is an integral part of parenting. Remember, mental health is not the absence of illness, it is the sense of overall well-being where a person thrives and is are able to function properly.
When people look at mental health as part of human development, the stigma around seeking help will no longer exist.
We need to include a mental health approach in whatever we are doing and not wait for disaster to happen before we intervene and try to do damage control.
It is important to remember that children are very resilient. They have many internal resources they can tap into as well. All children, even those who have experienced inhumane conditions, or violence and abuse in families and their communities, have an inner power that needs to be recognised, nurtured and cultivated.
For others, play, art or drama can serve as an outlet to work through trauma and negative experiences. We need to intervene early and provide them with tools to manage their own emotions so that when challenges occur, they know how to deal with them in a healthy way. When they face challenges in the future, they will remember “I was able to do this once before, I can do it again”.
With Covid-19 still alive and well globally, it is crucial to develop more protective mechanisms for children, the youth, and adults, so we are not paralysed by its effects.