Experts warn of mental health crisis to follow closures

Government adviser says teachers will have to 'pick up broken pieces' as a result of disruption caused by the pandemic
21st June 2020, 2:02pm

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Experts warn of mental health crisis to follow closures

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Coronavirus: Experts Have Warned Of A Child Mental Health Crisis After School Closures

Teachers will face "a hell of a lot of work" to limit the impact of school closures on children's mental health, experts have warned.

The government must provide support for pupils suffering as a result of the crisis "even if that comes at a cost", as the country will pay a "far greater" price over the long term if action is not taken now, according to educational psychologists.

Gavin Morgan, who sits on the government's Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours, a sub-group of Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies), told The Observer: "There is going to be a hell of a lot of work to be done from teachers and educational psychologists.

"We are going to have to pick up a lot of broken pieces and put things back together."


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He added: "One of the things that concerns me most is that for some children, school is one of the key focal points in their lives, giving them stability, meaning, self-worth, esteem. It is school that gives them a purpose.

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"For some children, they are perhaps not getting that from home. What they get from schools is secure relationships and secure attachments and for some kids that is with their teacher. For psychologists that is vitally important."

Dr Morgan warned that keeping children apart means they are "not learning how to interact".

"Much of this is done in the playground," he said.

Professor Cathy Creswell, a specialist in developmental clinical psychology at the University of Oxford, also told The Observer that a recent study had revealed "increases in behavioural and emotional problems - tantrums and disobedience" for children aged between 4 and 10.

Professor Creswell added that "a tsunami of referrals" to mental health services could follow the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

"We need to provide support for these children and even if that comes at a cost, we should be aware that the longer-term cost to the country will be far greater if this issue is not addressed now," she said.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We are working to get all pupils back in the classroom by September because we know being in school is vital for their education and wellbeing. The welfare of children and staff at the heart of all our decisions.

"We have placed significance on mental health in our planning framework for schools and launched a new training module to support schools to teach about wellbeing issues as part of the health curriculum as children go back."

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