3rd April 2020
We know that many people are worried about coronavirus, and there may be particular concerns for the families of young people who have existing mental health problems.
We asked Dr Elaine Lockhart, Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrist’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Faculty, what advice she could offer.
For advice on coronavirus generally, visit. NHS Inform. You can also visit SAMH’s information hub on coronavirus and mental wellbeing, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists Scotland’ page for clinicians.
“Children and young people will be hearing a lot about coronavirus and normal life will be disrupted for at least the next few months for all of us. The extensive media coverage provides helpful information but this can also be overwhelming and children and young people will understandably worry about themselves, family members and friends. This is an unprecedented scenario, and it is okay to feel stressed or anxious at this time.
“Parents and other family members can be very helpful when children and young people become anxious and there are some reliable resources which can help adults support them. Good information is key and avoiding misleading information on social media is really important at this time.
“Some children and young people may already have difficulties with their mental health and are already receiving treatment from services. They may become extremely anxious about coronavirus and may develop new or more severe anxiety symptoms, such as struggling to get to sleep, having panic attacks or feeling the need to wash their hands compulsively. It is really important that they are helped to use any coping strategies they may have already developed through work with counsellors or clinicians like relaxation exercises, distraction or use of a tool such as a worry box. If they are taking prescribed medicine, it is important that they continue to take this regularly as prescribed and that repeat prescriptions are arranged well in advance. Check the Royal College of Pharmacists for guidance on seeking medication.
“If they are attending CAMHS, their clinicians may arrange to speak to them over the telephone or through a secure conference call instead of bringing them into clinics. If their usual clinician is on leave or is deployed to another service, there will be cover from other people in the service. Parents or carers who are worried about their child’s mental health should contact their clinic directly for advice, rather than presenting with their child to an A and E department.
“Above all, children and young people will be affected by those around them. This is a difficult time for parents and carers and we all need to look after ourselves and each other. Taking time out from work and the media coverage is going to be essential over the next while. If possible, getting outdoors into green spaces will be therapeutic for people of all ages, as long as this can be done in line with government guidance.
“It is perfectly normal to feel worried during exceptional and frightening times such as this. However, if you are starting to feel overwhelmed, it’s important to acknowledge your feelings and speak to someone you trust, whether that’s a friend, a family member, your GP or a helpline”.
Need to speak to someone? Visit SAMH’s seeking support page for contact details.