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Experts note the effects of the epidemic on the mental health of young Germans

BERLIN (AP) – Pollina Dinner returned to school in Berlin for the first time this week after a two-month hiatus. The 9-year-old third grader was shocked to see his classmates and teachers again, but was confused about the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on his life.

“I am not afraid of the coronavirus, I am afraid that everything will continue like this. “When my school closes again, I will not be able to see my friends, that I can not go to the movies with my family,” said the girl, wearing a blue medical mask and sighing deeply. “And wearing this mask is even worse than closing all the shops.”

In Germany, psychiatrists, psychologists and pediatricians warn that school closures, social restrictions and other precautions increase the fear of the epidemic, disorder, and stress among Germany’s 13.7 million children և adolescents, raising the prospect of a further mental health crisis.

“We do not have long-term studies yet, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of a critical increase in hospitalizations and the practice of psychologists,” said Julia Asbrand, professor of child and youth psychology at Humboldt University in Berlin. The Associated Press.

A recent study by the University of Hamburg-Eppendorf Medical Center found that one in three children suffers from epidemic anxiety or depression or exhibits psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches. According to the study, children from poorer immigrant families suffer disproportionately.

Pollina, who immigrated from Russia with her family in 2019, worries about forgetting most of German because she speaks only Russian at home. He is one of 150 young people from vulnerable families who were affected by the epidemic. After school, she regularly spent time in a youth support program in the eastern suburbs of the German capital.

Arche, an English-language ark, is based in the Hellersdorf district of Berlin, next to dilapidated concrete buildings built during the former communist regime in East Germany. Some children are still allowed to come in person, but only once every two weeks. The rest of the time, social workers և educators try to stay in touch through video chats while helping their young clients with distance learning.

“Many have withdrawn completely; others do not want to leave their rooms. “They are very obese, they play online games all the time, they have no structure in their daily lives,” said Bernd Siggelkov, the founder of Arche.

The second major blockade in Germany began before Christmas. Grade 1-3 students were allowed to return to classes this week with reduced class sizes and limited classes. The government hopes to ease further restrictions in the coming weeks, he said, adding that reopening all schools is a top priority.

However, there is concern that the country is entering a third wave of infection due to more contagious versions of the virus. Virologists have repeatedly stated that it is still unclear to what extent the virus spreads from school children to homes and communities. More than 2 million people have been infected with the virus in Germany, and nearly 70,000 people have died from COVID-19, although only 10 under the age of 20, according to the country’s Centers for Disease Control.

Although children are not as at risk for severe complications of COVID-19 as older adults, experts say they may be more vulnerable to the psychological impact of epidemic insurance.

The analysis of the psychological problems of young people by the German health insurer DAK confirms the first-person observations of the Arche staff.

The estimate, obtained by the German news agency dpa, showed that the number of children and adolescents hospitalized for psychiatric treatment in Berlin almost doubled in the first half of 2020, when the country was closed for more than two months during the first blockade compared to 2019. with the first six months.

Statistics highlight the psychological burden of the epidemic among young people, but do not cover the scope of the problem. Christoph Corel, director of child and youth psychiatry at Charite Hospital in Berlin, told dpa.

“Hospitalization is the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Adolescents, especially girls, are more prone to eating disorders and self-harm. Many children ‘s psychological problems remain undiscovered while parents are overwhelmed, and teachers, social workers, pediatricians, and students regularly communicate with students, clients, and patients. ,

Professor Asbrand, a professor of psychology, is concerned that the mental health of children and adolescents has not received enough attention during the epidemic. Together with other experts in the field, he wrote an open letter to the government this month to address the needs of young people to better address the ongoing health crisis և priorities for reopening society.

To alleviate possible problems, government agencies can take immediate action to allow groups to assemble for school-youth sports in line with hygiene and disposal precautions.

“We all do not yet know how it will develop in the long run, but now we need to focus on the mental health of young people,” he said.

To help with homework assignments online while attending Arche this week, 16-year-old Robin Reyer said not hanging out with friends was one of the hardest parts of the epidemic.

“I want to celebrate my birthday again, go out, play soccer with my friends in the park or meet them at Burger King,” he said during a spring break.

“Now I am allowed to meet with a maximum of one friend,” he said. “It really sucks.”

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