The importance of supporting children and young people’s mental health during the pandemic.
Catholic Children’s Society (CCS) and John Lyon’s Charity (JLC) are working together to raise awareness about the importance of supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic.
It has been an incredibly difficult time and resource has been stretched, however, at the very least lockdown has removed some of the stigma around accessing mental health services and resources. “Many ‘hard to reach’ parents have been far more open and willing to engage with our therapists and work together to support their children,” said Greg Brister, Catholic Children’s Society’s Deputy CEO.
An example of this is Asif (not his real name) who is eight years old. At school, he often appeared tired and would get tearful and angry or lash out and be very aggressive. Asif’s home life was very challenging; his mother was emotionally distant and there were serious safety concerns in relation to Asif’s father who subsequently left the family and stopped providing any financial support.
During therapy, Asif enacted some very distressing scenarios. For example, characters would often be attacked by a ‘baddie’ and would be desperate to escape but would be caught and killed or eaten by a monster. Gradually Asif was helped to process these distressing experiences and the therapist worked with him to develop a greater sense of safety. Asif’s play started to shift and at times there would be happy endings, where the character escaped and lived happily with his mother.
The Catholic Children’s Society’s therapist spoke with Asif each week during lockdown and was also able to have conversations with Asif’s mother.
Usually, she was very hard to engage with, but the extraordinary situation with the pandemic had helped her to let her barriers down. She discussed the physical abuse she had experienced at the hands of her husband and the impact this had on her son. Together they explored different ways they could help Asif feel more secure and less afraid and volatile. Asif’s mother recognised that she did not always make time for her son and could be impatient with his challenging behaviour.
The therapist suggested a new routine to set aside some time each day to play together and provided some creative resources and ideas for different activities. The therapist also talked through different ways Asif’s mother could set clear boundaries whilst also giving Asif the attention he so craved.
This has had a big impact.
“I liked being able to talk on the phone,” Asif said. “You helped me when I was scared and made me feel better… I got out all my bad feelings and now I don’t have them anymore”.
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And this change has been noticed at school too. “I was so worried about how Asif would cope during lockdown and cannot believe the progress he has made,” Asif’s teacher commented. “The support the therapist has offered during this time has been amazing”.
John Lyon’s Charity (JLC) has always valued the work of organisations supporting children and young people with their mental health, awarding 126 grants totalling over £8.75m since 2010.
Funding from John Lyon’s Charity has helped the Catholic Children’s Society support thousands of children experiencing mental health difficulties by providing qualified therapists to work on-site in schools.
This has proved a very successful partnership and this work has grown to include providing mental health training for school staff, as well as specialist training to help schools run support groups for children experiencing bereavement and loss.
The Catholic Children’s Society now works in over 80 schools across London (both Catholic and non-Catholic). During the pandemic, they have supported over 4,500 vulnerable children, both through their mental health services and by providing emergency food and essentials for families living in poverty.
Catholic Children’s Society, John Lyon’s Charity and many other charities involved with Children’s Mental Health Week are calling for more support to ensure children and young people do not develop long-lasting mental health issues as a result of Covid-19.
The above article by Nisha Kotecha first published on goodnewsshared.com in Feb, 2021.