The coronavirus is still with us, although we hope the tough lockdowns are behind us. However, their consequences will affect all of us for a long time to come, and children in the first place. Children always suffer more than adults. It is still difficult for them in this world, they have not yet developed mechanisms for confronting problems. And our task – to help them in any way we can.
Today we will talk about the consequences of quarantines for children with a psychiatrist from the Maccabi Health Insurance Fund; Dr. Inna Simonova, Head of the Department of Mental Health for Children and Youth and Director of the District Children's Psychiatric Dispensary “Maccabi” in the Northern District.
– Tell me, what happens to children after quarantine? Did they experience any major changes during the period when they were forced to stay at home for a long time?
Certainly. Now we are all witnessing that difficult situation, which we call the “epidemic of mental problems”; or “silent epidemic”. Previously, in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic, everything was very loud – published figures, statistics of sick, dead, etc. Now we see fewer numbers, but in fact they are very frightening and depressing, because if the infectious epidemic is gradually disappearing, then the spiritual one has just begun.
Let's get down to the facts – health insurance “Maccabi” conducted a scientific study that began during the coronavirus. 250,000 case histories were taken from children who applied for psychological help in Maccabi, although the cases themselves are much more in reality, since many turned to private clinics and other health funds. The study showed that the mental health of the population – children, adolescents and parents have greatly deteriorated. This is primary data.
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– Why is this happening?
People are primarily social beings, they need communication with their own kind, and children, of course, need it even more. They need to be at school, where they develop intellectually and mentally, and because of the epidemic, this was stopped for 2 years. Children and adolescents continued to develop physically, but did not develop socially. They had practically no communication with their peers, and we believe that there was a real stop in social development.
Consequences can be divided into 2 categories:
•The direct effect of coronavirus on the brain.
To date, there are already many scientific studies that say that one of the symptoms of a long coronavirus – It's an effect on the brain. That is, the direct impact of the long coronavirus – depression, anxiety, cognitive decline.
• And the second and, apparently, more significant category of consequences – this is not a direct effect of the virus, but the consequences created due to the social situation.
It is important to note that the younger the children, the more these consequences affect them.
If we imagine children in kindergarten and/or elementary grades, children of five or seven years old, then at the moment it turns out that they spent half of their conscious life at home. This turned out to be critical for their cognitive-spiritual development. Children in any case play computer games, watch TV, but this is not enough. During the pandemic, they lost the opportunity to go to school, lost their social skills and fell out of the sight of teachers and social workers who might notice that a child needs help.
The situation has become a stalemate – many parents lost their jobs, and with it their financial stability, the standard of living of the population as a whole fell. The children saw that their parents were not working, and some were afraid that they might not even have food.
In addition, there was a very large instability – today there is a school, tomorrow not, today we study in zoom, tomorrow not. Children are very important stability and a sense of control over what is happening. But during this period, the parents, who are the main example for them, were also in a similar situation and could not help much. They themselves experienced anger, irritation, which led to family quarrels. And this is also an extremely negative factor for the child.
What else we noticed: families were divided into 2 categories.
Families that initially had good relationships have maintained them and even strengthened them. They were able to find a common language and used periods of isolation to improve relations. We found joint games and activities, various ways of communication.
And the second category – families where everything was not very good even before the quarantine. And during the long stay at home, even more conflicts arose, which led to divorces and increased aggression towards children. The number of calls to emergency centers for victims of domestic violence increased, and as a result, the centers were overwhelmed.
In my opinion, this will only continue – the number of hits continues to grow.
Are you not in Maccabi yet? To get detailed information about the Maccabi Health Insurance Fund, as well as to go or sign up for the first time, you can follow the link. Just leave your details and representatives of the fund will contact you and do everything necessary.
– How can parents help their children? Please give practical advice.
The most important thing in every family – is to see your children. Do not wait until they ask for help, it is difficult for children. Usually they show what they feel with their behavior. It is necessary to initiate conversations, it is not necessary to arrange special, so to speak, events. Quietly at dinner, turn off the TV, put social networks aside and devote half an hour to light conversation about the past day in order to understand the general condition of the child. Some children manage on their own, while others need help.
A good method would be joint sports, walks, outings, pets, if the children love them. It is worth returning to proper nutrition, involving children in joint cooking and housework, that is, being close to the children, seeing their state of mind. All this should help to keep the child's mentality stable.
And, of course, there are warning signs, the so-called “red symptoms”, which indicate that joint conversations at the table are no longer enough and you need to turn to the help of professionals. If the child is very sad, withdrawn or aggressive, sits in his room, does not go out to communicate with friends, does not sleep at night, is afraid to be alone, “sags”; studies. In this case, you should not wait for everything to fix itself, you need to seek help from specialists. And the sooner, the more effective it will be, and consequently, less harm will be done to the child's psyche.
Note: There are many ways to help a child cope with a difficult psychological situation, such as contacting a medical specialist, pet therapy, supportive sports procedures, etc. For holders of additional insurance “Maccabi Sheli” there is a system of special discounts and benefits, for example, the first 15 procedures per calendar year for children from 3 to 18 years old from the series of art therapy, pet therapy, music and sports therapy will cost 45 NIS. for each. The child can also benefit from therapeutic horseback riding or swimming lessons at the Maccabi Sheli; they also cost 45 NIS. There is no need for any special diagnostics for this. You can just ask for a referral from a pediatrician.Go to Maccabi
– Do I need to give children medicine – valerian, “Region” and other non-prescription sedatives?
I do not advise parents to make decisions about medical treatment of children on their own. First, you need to consult a doctor, it is not necessary to immediately go to a psychiatrist, you can first make an appointment with a pediatrician. A pediatrician can conduct an initial diagnosis of the child, prescribe tests and, based on the medical opinion, prescribe medicines or natural preparations for the child.
Self-treatment – this is not the way out. “Our” people are very fond of valerian or other sedatives that are sold without a prescription. They will do no harm, but time will be lost to begin effective treatment.
– But it's not easy for parents themselves either, what advice do you have for them? Maybe something in common that will help both?
As I said above – joint leisure: walks, sports, etc. help both children and parents. It is mutually beneficial and improves family relationships. In addition, parents themselves should monitor their condition and seek qualified help in time.
Parents suffer in the same way as children, and the natural remedies that we talked about can help parents, however , I think the first thing to do is to consult a specialist.
Note: In “Maccabi” there is a psychological support service, and each member of the health insurance fund has the right to 3 telephone conversations with a psychologist free of charge and without a doctor's referral. Service phone number: *3028
Are you not in Maccabi yet? To get detailed information about the Maccabi Health Insurance Fund, as well as to go or sign up for the first time, you can follow the link. Just leave your details, and the representatives of the fund will contact you and do everything necessary.
– When should you seek advice from a specialist?
If parents feel that they have become quick-tempered, aggressive, break down on children for no reason – they also need psychological help, counseling. They can see a family doctor or a psychologist.
You can get detailed information about the Maccabi Health Insurance Fund, as well as transfer or enroll new repatriates on the Internet . Just leave your details, and the cashier's representatives will contact you and do everything necessary.
Interviewed by Alexey S. Zheleznov-Avni
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