Fear is the most lasting psychological impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. In a nationwide survey commissioned by St Patrick’s Mental Health Services in 2020, more than 80 per cent of people said they felt anxiety was rampant in Irish society. Research by Maynooth University and Trinity College Dublin Concurrent research showed a more than 20 percent increase in clinically significant anxiety-related mental health problems.
Despite the unresolved psychological impact of Covid-19 for many, especially children, the war in Ukraine will undoubtedly increase feelings of anxiety. From a psychological perspective, children and young people have experienced some of the most significant losses and psychological impacts in the past two years.
A survey conducted during the pandemic by the National Parents Council Primary and St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services found that 60 percent of parents felt that increased anxiety was the biggest impact on their children’s mental health. The now daily exposure to the very disturbing stories from Ukraine, along with the talk of rationing, price hikes and even a possible nuclear war, will have an emotional impact.
For some, the emotional impact of these events will have positive consequences; Their fear, along with their compassion, will give them the impetus to try to help. The social mobilization of children, youth and adults to find ways to support people in and fleeing Ukraine has been significant. Aside from helping the victims of this terrible war, these actions offer a way to overcome some of the psychological powerlessness we all feel as we watch the horrific events.
Of course, there is a risk of emotional consequences. For some young people, this new fear will feed and exacerbate the anxiety triggered and developed during Covid-19, and for others it will exacerbate pre-existing anxiety-related mental health problems. For many, it will create an underlying anxious malaise that needs to be recognized and treated.
It is important that adults, especially parents, be sensitive to supporting children through these emotional consequences while also managing their own inevitable stress.
What the pandemic has taught us is that children and young people have remarkable resilience; The concept of the Snowflake generation has been thoroughly debunked. To support them through the effects of war so close to home, we must help them connect to their inner emotional strength and resilience.
This starts with giving them permission to speak openly about how they perceive and understand what is happening. Giving them permission to talk about their feelings also gives us some insight into how these events affected them.
It is important to present the facts as we understand them and protect them from misinformation or catastrophe. This requires gathering and understanding the facts while balancing and managing our own fears.
Strengthening the functional way they deal with their emotions, e.g. B. Finding ways to relax, rationalize their worries, talk to friends, and focus on things they enjoy while making sure they know they can turn to an adult if they need support needing, parents or someone else they trust is crucial. Children and young people often do not want to worry their parents and look to others for support. It’s important to see this as a compassionate action, not a challenge.
Children and young people who express negative emotions or distressing behavior about something we don’t have an emotional connection to as adults are often seen as a sign of resilience or being defiant. It is important that we are open to reinterpreting these emotions and actions as signals of distress.
Focusing on the key actions that strengthen a child’s mental health; affirm that they are loved and are good people; and teaching them how to be happy, while helping them find ways to feel safe and content, lay the foundations for mental well-being. Building a young person’s mental well-being helps them cope better with psychological challenges.
Not being afraid to seek additional help when a child or young person is experiencing significant mental health problems, and trusting that others will do their best to provide support is also crucial.
The pandemic has taught us all to be afraid. Children will have learned a lot about their emotions in the past two years; the effect of challenges and trauma on these emotions and how to understand and deal with fear.
This war is appalling and the impact on those directly affected is appalling. It is important that we maintain confidence in our child’s and our own ability to cope with the psychological consequences; to provide any assistance possible; to seek additional help if needed; and to use our need together to do what we can to support the direct victims whose lives have been changed forever.
Paul Gilligan is CEO of St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services, clinical psychologist and children’s advocate
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/young-people-are-remarkably-resilient-but-they-need-our-support-41466367.html Young people are remarkably resilient – but they need our support