I AM worried about my child. In fact I am worried about all the children out there right now because I believe that their future mental wellbeing is being compromised.

When I look back at how the government has managed the needs of children over the last few months, I feel a sense of despair. Children have had no support in terms of addressing and managing their mental health over this period and this is a problem not just for me because I am a parent, but also because I am a doctor who will be dealing with the aftermath of this pandemic.

Let’s have a think about what life has been like for our children. One day they were at school getting on with routines familiar to them for as long as they could remember and the next they were being isolated at home and being schooled by their carers for an indefinite period of time.

It has been difficult enough for us adults to get our heads around what’s going on yet our children were expected to just get on with things.

Luckily children are a lot more resilient than adults but there is a limit to this resilience.

In order to make our children understand the significance of coronavirus, we were encouraged to educate them on how to keep themselves safe. We advised children to regularly wash their hands, use alcohol gels, keep a distance from others but also engrained in them the notion that the safest place for them to be was at home. While this was an important intervention, it has resulted in children now being fearful to ever leave their homes.

Staying home to save lives worked on a public health level however months down the line when we look at the mental wellbeing of children, something has gone wrong.

I look at my own son who has just turned seven. Prior to lockdown he was a very happy, sociable and friendly little boy, but over the passage of time, he has become anxious at the mere mention of visiting a friend. Don’t even talk about going back to school! Going out for a walk in the park is now met with resistance because, “I don’t want to get the virus from others.” I speak to my mum friends and hear the same – reports of their kids feeling more irritable, testing boundaries, being more subdued, tantrums – the list is endless and it is worrying.

Isolation is cruel and is one of the leading causes of depression and anxiety. Children and young people thrive on social engagement and interactions. Socialising is fundamental to their global development but prolonged distancing from other humans will have altered their perceptions of normality.

There is currently a sketchy outline for what we can expect when kids return back to school in August. Furthermore, we have no idea how long this unpredictability will last for but one thing is for sure, provisions have to be in place to support the mental wellbeing of young people when they do go back. We cannot wait for children to start showing symptoms, every child needs to be screened upon starting back at school and immediate action be taken.

My worry is that the services available for child and adolescent mental health were already stretched prior to the pandemic. How will we manage moving forwards as we start to see an incline in numbers? Mental health must now be a priority and the health services must be optimised to cater for the large numbers of young people who will require therapy back to “normality.”

While we face one pandemic right now, I fear the next big pandemic is upon us and that is of mental health problems which are about to peak.

I hope that we will be able to support and help fight this in a more efficient manner compared

to what was done to tackle Covid-19.