Children’s mental health, education as vital as economic recovery

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak – June 8, 2021 @ 12:17am

LOCKDOWNS by any name sound unsettling to many. As nomadic, modern beings, adjusting to lockdowns is never easy. Mobility has been an essential part of living since some 300 years ago, beginning with the first industrial revolution.

The introduction of the steam engine revolutionised human interactions, as well as the human-ecological interplay as humankind explored, and later exploited, the environment in the name of progress, at times bringing a number of disadvantages to the collective survival.

Hence, it is not difficult to understand why the “stay home” instruction is often not taken seriously, especially when there seems to be varying standards of implementation despite a standard operating procedure.

If “lockdown”, commonly understood as a physical phenomenon, is not easily accepted and practised, the “mental” dimensions are even often illusive, if not totally ignored. The relationship between the physical and mental (or spiritual) aspects and consequences of lockdowns are seldom articulated.

Normally, during the pre-pandemic days, the latter was soothed by taking a trip to the various outlets (vacation, shopping) that somehow takes care of the so-called “boredom” as it is generally identified with. However, when one is physically isolated for days on end, this is no longer a choice. Instead, “boredom” looms large and eventually manifests in a myriad of mental health problems.

This is now the issue at hand as the coronavirus pandemic evolves to become a threat not only to physical health, but, insidiously, mentally as well. In fact, not unlike the Covid-19 infection itself, a mental health problem cannot be easily detected unless trained professionals “test” for it.

To carry this out on a massive scale is challenging; in fact, more so because younger age groups that are said to be most vulnerable might not be able to articulate what they are feeling. In contrast, physical symptoms are easily recognised.

Last week, Dutch non-governmental organisation KidsRights revealed that millions of children who have missed out on education because of Covid-19 restrictions could face long-term impacts on their physical and mental health. Its chairman said the effects of the pandemic on children had “unfortunately exceeded our predictions at the outset last year”.

“Apart from patients of the coronavirus, children have been hardest hit, not directly by the virus itself, but were fundamentally failed through the deferred actions of governments around the world, despite the signals, which will lead to serious, long-term repercussions for the health of future generations,” he said.

“Governments globally must focus on mental health and education as much as the economy in their post-Covid-19 crisis policies to safeguard future generations. Education recovery is the key to avoiding a generational catastrophe.”

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