Coronavirus Chronicles — COVID-19’s War on Mental Health

In Britain, just like everywhere else, “cases of anxiety, depression and behavioral and eating disorders have risen.” The Department of Education has made a comprehensive effort to define exactly which aspects of lockdown are the most deleterious to people between the ages of five and 24.

Of course, it didn’t take a panel of experts. Any random person could probably name the factors that are most destructive to mental health — “isolation from friends, learning from home and worrying about family members.”

No one denies the catching the virus can be terrible, even fatal. And spreading it to others is almost as bad. But many health professionals are preoccupied with concern over the long-term effects of the numerous threats to mental health. One of those threats of course is obesity. By now it has become clear that the earlier in a child’s life obesity gains a foothold, the more difficult it will be to combat. And the longer a child remains obese, the higher the likelihood is that the condition will persist into adulthood.

Whose side are you on?

One of the most heartbreaking aspects of any extended lockdown scenario is that even the people who believe that “something must be done” are unable to agree on the extent and severity of measures they want their society to take. Other factors, like political agendas, cannot be ignored, and so become conflated with the precautions and rules associated with the pandemic.

In London, class, religion, and race apparently have not provided hot-headed kids with enough reasons for hate, so they started slaughtering each other based on their postcodes, or what Americans call zip codes. It is just one more example, like the American Crips and Bloods, of deadly animus between two groups between whom outsiders are unable to discern a scintilla of difference.

So the British ban on outdoor sports upsets at least two different constituencies — the parents who worry that without exercise, their children will become irrevocably fat; and the adults who fear that, without outdoor sports to drain off their explosive energy, the youth will continue to kill each other in their insane postcode wars. Social worker Ashley Levien told reporter Nosheen Iqbal,

Football is an energy release and a safe space for these young people, away from postcode violence and difficulties at home. A lot of them might have invisible disabilities, like dyslexia and ADHD, and it’s already been difficult to re-engage them since the first lockdown. Our young people are resilient, but they’re the ones who will feel this the most.

Then, there are the people who still believe that children can neither contract nor spread the virus, and who blame all the precautionary rules they hate on a misguided desire to protect the geriatric citizens “who have already lived their lives.” When adults talk crackpot nonsense like this, hearing it can’t be doing the kids any good, either.

Stress takes a terrible toll even on parents who are perfectly willing to stay home and spend a lot of quality time with their kids — which would be great — except that there is no money coming in. Artist Amie Jordan told the reporter of her seven-year-old son’s panic attacks and extensive crying jags:

I do make a point of never letting him see if I’m struggling. I’ll go without to make sure he has food and clothes and whatever it is he needs… [T]he stress about the money is having an effect on him because he’s worrying about me.

That level of stress can bring out latent eating disorders and other mental illnesses, now and later. Even if a person doesn’t have enough food to indulge in binge-eating at the present time, the stage is being set for food- and eating-related problems far into the future.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “‘I just want to be with my friends’: how will children cope with being cooped up again in second lockdown?,”, 11/08/20
Image by Maheen Fatima/Public Domain

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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.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


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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