COVID-19 and Mental health in School-Aged Children and Young People: Thinking ahead while preparing the return to school and to life “as usual”

Margarida Gaspar de Matos, Tony Wainwright


From December 2019 onwards, the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it several health, social and economic issues, particularly associated with home confinement measures, lockdown, and fear of being infected or otherwise affected by the virus, or even die. As with everybody else, children and young people are experiencing a new reality. The question is how well, and how long will it take for recovery. Furthermore, what is the likely affective, social, academic and economic cost for this recovery. There are at least four psychosocial scenarios that must be separately analysed: children and young people with previous mental ill health that may be left unattended by health services; those who may have a first episode of mental ill health during home confinement and had no health care; those with psychosocial vulnerabilities that may be left under-monitored and exposed to undermining circumstances, and finally those that have faced a huge change in their routines and may have formed a relatively stable pessimistic outlook that affects their wellbeing. Social isolation and quarantine have precipitated a decrease in wellbeing and an increase in mental health problems and psychosocial vulnerabilities, plus a lowering of general capacity for health, education and social security care. Confined children and young people are separated from their usual social support, deprived of the personal freedom that they are used to, and see a comprehensive change in the usual life routine and lifestyle with an enormous change in physical, social, affective and even digital environments. All children and young people are in need of a monitoring system and of arrangements to promote social participation and engagement, that runs at the same time as their return to school. Mitigating negative mental health effects requires a concerted effort from the general population, policy makers, education and healthcare professionals. Moreover, international health and educational organisations have advised governments that this action would benefit by being proactive: meaning there is an urgent need to get ready immediately – being ready for the “day after”, thinking ahead and being able to put together in the field and on time, an adequate nation-wide, participatory, multidisciplinary, mental health related set of interventions.


COVID-19, Social isolation, Home confinement, Wellbeing, Mental health, Mental ill health, School, Children, Adolescents, Young people.

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