Coronavirus Chronicles — COVID-19 a Disaster for Young Minds

We were looking at the predictions made back in June by Dr. Gavin Morgan, about the toll that school closures would take on the physical and mental health of children. He suggested that in addition to obesity and COVID-19, a third pandemic would join the crew, this one being PTSD. The United States has a lot else going on, but in Great Britain, one contingent of journalists keeps a pretty close eye on what is happening with the children, and what they see is not encouraging.

Also, back in early summer, when coronavirus had barely even gotten off to a running start, columnist Gaby Hinsliff warned that a whole generation of children could be scarred. Reminding readers of how children are “sticklers for routine,” she gave examples of some real kids who were already thrown off balance by their disjointed lives, like a little boy whose day-care center reopened after making adjustments to its facilities. Although he had severely missed the place, starting there again was even more distressing because it was another change, and he had had enough change to last him for a while.

At a government hearing, Alain Gregoire of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance described the plight of new mothers, echoed here by the reporter:

Imagine the loneliness of maternity leave with no grandparents swooping in to take the baby for a bit, no cafes to hang out in, no playgroups for finding others in the same boat and clinging to them.

Bad enough for the mums, but for a baby who spent his or her earliest months with only a parent or two adjusting to other relatives and strangers can be a difficult transition. Here and there a spot of brightness could be found — “even surly 15-year-olds may eventually be bored enough to talk to their parents” — but the whole scene is no joke for toddlers who have now missed out on “an entire developmental stage’s worth of learning to share, play and listen with other toddlers, which is half the battle in getting ready for school.”

Last month, The Guardian journalists Sarah Marsh and Amelia Hill collected figures having to do with the precipitous rise in sleep problems, self-harm, and of course, eating disorders caused by school closings and the necessity to stay home all the time. A survey found that at least one-quarter of the young people who responded felt unable to cope. Many reported struggling to think clearly, and one-third had experienced panic attacks.

Sleeping pill prescriptions for teenagers went up by 30% since COVID-19-related isolation. Some were worried that they would be unable to continue their educations, and others resented the fact that all the work they had already put in seemed destined to be wasted. There was talk of a “lost generation.”

Britain has not nearly enough trained counselors to meet the need. Parents seeking government help for their children’s various problems face long waiting lists, and by long we mean a year or more. Even clinics where those with money can pay, are hard-pressed to handle the influx of clients:

One of the largest private eating disorder services reported a 71% rise in admissions in September compared with the same period a year ago… A survey of 61 secondary school children from […] a charity that offers counseling in schools, shows self-harm reports rose 77% […] and suicide ideation increased by 81% […] over the last two months.

Needless to say, every emotional and psychological problem that has been known to lead to obesity, is worse.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “A generation of children could be scarred by the coronavirus pandemic,”, 06/13/20
Source: “Figures lay bare toll of pandemic on UK children’s mental health,”, 10/21/20
Image by danielle_blue/CC BY-SA 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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