Radolfzell: Corona affects the youngest: more mental problems in children and adolescents

Homeschooling, isolation, canceled events, missing meetings with friends – in the last two years, Corona has caused several restrictions and great mental stress, especially for children and young people. And it has consequences: The number of affected people who suffer from mental disorders or abnormalities and have problems coping with everyday life and at school has increased.

Many inquiries at the counseling center

This is also noticeable in the district of Konstanz. “We are experiencing a huge increase in inquiries,” says Claudia Riedlinger, who works with ten other family therapists at the Psychological Counseling Center for Children, Adolescents and Parents in the Radolfzell-based district. At this and at a branch office in Singen, those affected must be supported and further procedures discussed together. The reasons for the current inquiries are different. “There are many children who come with fear or obsessive-compulsive disorder,” says the trained psychologist.

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In addition, many children and young people can no longer find their way back to school or dare not go to kindergarten. Riedlinger also lists depression, sleep disorders, separation anxiety and lethargy. And: “At least we are also increasingly dealing with suicidal thoughts among children, young people and also their parents.” There are also more and more psychosomatic problems triggered by stress and anxiety, such as headaches and stomach aches. “Children of primary school age react to this particularly frequently,” says the psychologist. As a starting point, however, children of all age groups are affected by the problems.

Lack of contacts, fear of loss, guilt

The causes of the problems are also different. On the one hand, there was no contact with friends or clubs during the lockdown. “The connection is no longer there,” says Claudia Riedlinger. It is especially difficult for young people because their development is based on their peers. “It’s really important for psychological development and for being happy.” On the other hand, the fear of loss can arise when children are told about the death of some grandparents, and feelings of guilt can arise if a person who is affected transmits the virus themselves.

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Coercion, on the other hand, is due to precautions to limit the infection process. “It is very clearly related to the pandemic,” says Claudia Riedlinger about the mental problems. It is also difficult that many children and young people did not have the prospect of recovery during the pandemic: “Helplessness is a very big factor.”

Particularly socially disadvantaged families are affected

Especially children from socially disadvantaged families are often affected. There are significantly more dangerous cases where, for example, domestic violence occurs. Families are also often concerned that parents are losing their jobs and poverty. “Parents’ concerns had a strong impact on the children,” Riedlinger says. For such children and young people, the beginning of the first lockdown was difficult, where in other families you could also feel the relaxation due to less pressure to perform in school.

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During the second hard lockdown, the problems also spread to other children and young people: “There were many people who had actually had a good time with their lives until then.” And even though the lockdown is long over, there are still many cases. Claudia Riedlinger attributes this to the fact that the pressure in school is increasing again, especially for children who were left behind in the pandemic – they have to catch up on the missing lessons.

Study confirms observations

The Counseling Center is not alone in its findings. In a large-scale long-term study with 2000 participants, researchers from the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf examined the effects and consequences of the pandemic on the mental health and well-being of children and young people in Germany. The result: Nearly one in three children suffered from mental health problems.

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The study also talks about increasing worries, fears, depressive symptoms and psychosomatic disorders, which had only diminished slightly after schools and leisure facilities were opened. And children and young people from socially disadvantaged families, families with a migrant background or their parents’ own mental illness are also highlighted as particularly affected.

There is an offer of help here

Overall, according to the psychologist, mental problems should be treated as soon as possible. On the one hand, the suffering of those affected is great, and diseases such as depression would pose a great risk to the children’s further development.

And mental health problems, if left untreated, can have far-reaching consequences in the future. Anxiety disorders, for example, would not get better by themselves, would even get worse if left untreated, according to Riedlinger even become chronic and in adulthood also promote other mental illnesses such as depression and addiction problems.

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“It is important to intervene before life is limited,” the psychologist emphasizes. The bigger the problems, the harder it will be to return to normal life. She even fears that there will be many young people who can not even graduate from school. Or that they later slip into unemployment.

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“It is incredibly important for mental health that it is treated early so that the children are not left behind.” In the beginning, it is also easier to find good solutions to overcome the problems: “If I start early, I can treat the mild symptoms well.” I wait longer, but these are often already solidified.

Get therapy places available

The difficulty: Even before the pandemic, there were far too few therapy places for children and young people. So if you have problems that are so big that counseling at a family counseling center is not enough, you have to endure long waits. According to Riedlinger, it will be very important to create sufficient capacity in time.

Nevertheless, Claudia Riedlinger urges parents not to lose hope. She advises them not to give up when looking for therapy places, even after they have been rejected. “You really have to keep at it.” For the good news is, “Many difficulties can be easily dealt with.”

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