Lockdown has caused anxiety and psychological distress among children, mental health experts saySocialisation and physical activities are crucial for children’s emotional and mental development.
As the Covid-19 pandemic wreaks havoc around the world, the ongoing lockdown in Nepal has been especially hard for adolescents and teenagers. The lockdown, which has been ongoing for more than two months now, has led to limited social and physical activities among children which, mental health experts say, could trigger anxiety and psychological distress.
A growing number of children, particularly those in the cities, have been spending their days cooped up inside their rooms using the internet these days.
“This is a scary situation and parents should be wary about the consequences of limited social and physical activities on their children’s mental health,” Prabhakar Pokharel, a consultant psychiatrist, said.
The continuous lockdown extension has also hampered the studies of children. School exams, including the Secondary Education Examination of Grade 10, have been postponed indefinitely. This could affect the children’s performance when they sit for exams.
Pradip Karki, a tenth grader student from Melamchi, was preparing for the SEE when the country went under the lockdown. The 15-year-old stopped preparing for his finals after there was no sign of the lockdown getting relaxed anytime soon.
He said he is not quite as confident about scoring good grades as he was before the lockdown.
“Staying at home for months on end has been exhausting. I haven't met my friends for so long and I haven’t been studying as much,” Pradip said.
Pradip’s mother is worried because her son has been spending most of his time using the phone.
“We haven’t allowed him to go out and meet his friends. So he is on the phone most of the time. His behaviour has changed lately. He rarely speaks with us and gets easily irritated if we try to engage him in a conversation,” said Sarita Karki, Pradip’s mother.
Healthy communication is crucial for children’s social and emotional development.
“Parents have to talk to their children since social and emotional development is very important, particularly for teenagers,” Pokharel said.
According to him, his clinic has received several calls from distressed parents complaining about the changes in the behaviour of their children ever since the lockdown began on March 24.
Teenagers have passion, desire and energy to do something but they also lack patience due to which they could be frustrated, hopeless, Pokharel said.
“If someone in the family is able to convince them and communicate with them properly, they can use the time for productive work.”
The lockdown has also affected the mental health of many adults.
Even during the lockdown, deaths by suicide have continued when other crimes have decreased dramatically.
According to the data provided by Nepal Police, 1,227 people committed suicide from March 24 to June 6. Among these sucide victims, 149 were teenagers.
“Loneliness, depression and stress are bound to consume a person especially teenagers with mental illness when they are confined within the walls of their home. And since they cannot reach out to their counselors and friends during this period, there is a high chance of them becoming emotionally volatile,” said DIG Niraj Bahadur Shahi, spokesperson for Nepal Police. “ Family support could play a crucial role for a person with mental illness during lockdown.”