Healthy People defines mental health as the state of successful mental capabilities, leading to effective practices, interactions, and adaptations to life challenges. It is, therein, vital to personal wellbeing, the ability to contribute to society and family, and personal relationships. However, compromise to this state often metamorphosizes into mental disorders characterized by alterations in behavior, mood, and thoughts (Healthy People, 2020). Failure to have effective interventions can lead to impaired functioning and distress. Healthy People’s primary mission is to enhance mental health via implementing sustainable measures and ensuring reachable access to quality and appropriate care services to address the condition. Thus, the organization seeks to highlight the risk factors subjecting individuals to mental illness and subsequently implement protective factors.
Healthy People’s mental disorders objectives are pegged on reducing suicide attempts and rates among adolescents. Data from 2009 indicated 1.9 suicide attempts within a radius of about 100 people (Healthy People, 2020). In response, the organization targets to reduce such manifestation by a 10 percent improvement, representing a decline of 1.7 suicide attempts within a similar population (Healthy People, 2020). Consequently, the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted children’s mental health. For example, the pandemic introduced certain vulnerabilities, negatively impacting the critical development period since children could not preserve or promote their mental health (Marques de Miranda et al., 2020). In healthcare facilities, the impacts were experienced through increased emergency visits, which escalated as the pandemic progressed. Thus, the pandemic took a toll on children’s mental state, resulting in depression and disrupting routines, recreation, education, and concern for health and family income.
Being Mentally “Healthy” is Important for School-Aged Children
Mental health is an integral aspect of children’s general wellbeing. It has a multifaceted correlation between interactive relationships, the ability to co-exist in society, physical health, and success in school (Rider et al., 2021). In this case, mental health impacts thought processes, feelings, and actions. For example, an overweight child could be subject to ridicule or verbal abuse, denting their self-esteem and confidence. Such acts may, in turn, motivate them to withdraw socially and become depressed. In the long-term, they could be reluctant to interact with others through play or exercises, contributing to poor physical health caused by mental health challenges (Rider et al., 2021). Good mental health is vital since it predisposes school-aged children to reason clearly, develop socially, and learn new skills.
Aspects of the Pandemic that Affected Mental Health
Coronavirus pandemic brought several detrimental outcomes to children between 5 and 17 years of school-going children. It resulted in short- and long-term psychological and mental health implications, depending on the magnitude and quality of the various impacts (Rider et al., 2021). For example, due to the rapid spread of the virus, governments and different agencies recommended the implementation of lockdowns around the world. Unfortunately, this outcome negatively impacted numerous vulnerability factors, such as development, education, health conditions, and economic status. In this view, the ability to interact among children was curtailed following the closure of schools (Rider et al., 2021). Subsequently, home confinement was associated with anxiety and uncertainty that characterized the lockdown period. In addition, boredom, disruption to the normal routine, and lack of engagement resulted in psychological distress among children.
Data on Children’s Mental Health Status
The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated existing mental illness among adolescents, following the directive to close all learning institutions. As a result, school-going children lacked access to the schools’ vital mental health services. At the pandemic’s beginning, 25 percent of learners showed worsening emotional and cognitive health outcomes (KFF, 2021). Consequently, the condition worsened because of the disruptions in routines, loss of social contact, and stress from home. It is also vital to highlight that the number of parents reporting mental health issues in their children rose by 20 percent for those between 5 to 12 years (KFF, 2021). Thus, due to poor mental health and the failure of interventions, these outcomes posed an increased risk to suicide rates.
Mental Health as an Emerging Issue in Healthcare
Conditions related to mental health are rising globally due to the current demographic shifts. A survey conducted in 2020 involving 1000 parents revealed that 71 percent of the participants confessed that the pandemic had impacted their children’s mental health (Abramson, 2022). Another 69 percent reported that the advent of the coronavirus was the most unfortunate thing that ever happened to their children (Abramson, 2022). As a result, mental health-related conditions have negatively impacted all areas of life, including the ability to participate in the community, relationships with families, school performance, and work outputs. Furthermore, the condition affects health finances, mainly depression and anxiety, costing about $170 billion for school funding (Abramson, 2022). While efforts have started taking shape, more is still desired regarding interventions, considering that a minute of the median health expenditures is directed towards mental health.
Impact on Stakeholders
The outbreak of COVID-19 negatively impacted social setups, mainly families and society. It was experienced from different perspectives, touching on economic and social outcomes. For example, after the lockdown, many families lost their livelihoods because they were forced to stay indoors (Marques de Miranda et al., 2020). Unfortunately, the directive resulted in psychological distress, primarily posttraumatic stress disorder, insomnia, avoidance behaviors, fear, and depression. In response, preserving the mental health status of people, including children, is vital since it alleviates the culmination of stressors (Marques de Miranda et al., 2020). Ultimately, failure to implement an early diagnosis intervention could subject children and their families to challenges at home, school, and cultivating healthy relationships within the community.
Impact on Education/Schools
Mental health impacts education and academic performance among children. Individuals subject to such challenges may be predisposed to difficulties concentrating lack of optimism, and sleeping difficulties. These outcomes are detrimental to normal learning practices since they shift learners’ attention to other unimportant things (Imran et al., 2020). Unlike the common belief that it is only low-performers who struggle with mental health issues, the opposite is also true. Many high-performers could also suffer from mental health-related conditions, including stress and anxiety, arising from the need to perform. Overall, efforts in schools should be directed towards educating and creating awareness among learners on mental health.
Impact on Healthcare Workforce and Insurers
With the increased culmination of mental health concerns among children, new measures were put in place to ensure that the healthcare workforce is up-to-task with handling such cases. However, before that, there was the need to ensure that the staff members were of sound mind and mentally prepared to deal with children undergoing challenging psychological episodes. For a long time, the issue of mental health among children had been given a wide berth, but the pandemic reinforced why it should be prioritized in healthcare facilities. The healthcare workforce’s negligence also made it difficult to implement interventions (KFF, 2021) effectively. Similarly, the issue initiated an important discussion about coverage for mental health among children. Unfortunately, most insurers do not cover mental health services, although prevalent conditions, such as anxiety and depression, impact their cost profiles indirectly.
Abramson, A. (2022). Children’s mental health is in crisis. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/01/special-childrens-mental-health
Healthy People. (2020). Mental health and mental disorders. https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/mental-health-and-mental-disorders
Imran, N., Zeshan, M., & Pervaiz, Z. (2020). Mental health considerations for children & adolescents in COVID-19 pandemic. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, 36(COVID19-S4).
KFF. (2021, May 26). The pandemic’s impact on children’s mental health. Kaiser Family Foundation. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/press-release/the-pandemics-impact-on-childrens-mental-health/
Marques de Miranda, D., da Silva Athanasio, B., Sena Oliveira, A., & Simoes-e-Silva, A. (2020). How is COVID-19 Pandemic impacting mental health of children and adolescents? International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 51, 101845.
Rider, E., Ansari, E., Varrin, P., & Sparrow, J. (2021). Mental health and wellbeing of children and adolescents during the covid-19 pandemic. BMJ, n1730.