NHS England’s Top Doctor for Children and Young People’s Mental Health Has Urged Parents

Professor Prathiba Chitsabeson, an NHS England Associate Clinical Director for Children and Young Peoples Mental Health, recently warned parents that some children may be returning to school with Mental Health concerns. This could be demonstrated through anxiety, low mood or distress.

“Children and young people may be experiencing a variety of feelings in response to the coronavirus pandemic, including anxiety, distress and low mood, and it is important to understand that these are normal responses to an abnormal situation.” – Professor Prathiba Chitsabesan, NHS England Associate National Clinical Director for Children and Young People’s Mental Health

Returning to Normality

Speaking recently to teachers who have had students return to the classroom, they have expressed not yet experiencing any children showing any signs of distress. In fact, they have been excited to return to the classroom, progressing with their learning and most of all, interacting with their friends again. This wonderful to hear after so much negativity.

However, it is early days. There will be some children who are not coping as well as those mentioned above. Keeping vigilant during these times is crucial in spotting the early signs of distress.

A Challenging Time For Children

People say children are resilient, and this is quite true. Yet they have experienced a very challenging time over lockdown, some more challenging than others. This will have an impact on children and ultimately, their mental health.

Families have very sadly lost loved ones as well as jobs and income, causing depravation and potentially restricting access to regular meals. Children have been kept indoors unable to go out and play with their friends, unable to engage with extended family members.

Spotting The Signs of Distress

When children are finally able to return to school, it is not how they would remember it. Socially distancing, coming into contact with people wearing face masks, or indeed themselves having a face mask placed on them, and being kept away from some teachers and friends remaining in their bubble. New procedures to follow all can be very challenging and confusing for younger children and those with special educational needs.

Professor Prathiba Chitsabeson gives tips in her article on some of the signs that show a child is in distress and what to look out for, these include:

  • Hard to manage emotions, more upset or angry.
  • Appear anxious or distressed.
  • Increasing problems with eating or sleeping.
  • Appear low in mood, withdrawn or tearful.
  • Report worried or negative thoughts about themselves or their future.
  • Bed Wetting.

Read the full article in detail here.

The Challenge For School Leaders And Teachers

Pastoral and wellbeing support demand may be high, School Leaders and Teachers will have their work cut out identifying and supporting the children within their care. Not every child in their classroom has had the same experience during lockdown.

The Mental Health Foundation

The Mental Health Foundation have written a great article outlining what teaching staff and school leaders should look out for and there are links to some wonderful support and resources for school leaders, teachers and parents.

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Beverley Jones-Leka

Beverley Jones-Leka

Beverley, Director of Regulatory Services, has been working in the education sector for 18 years leading on projects to engage those individuals who are deemed “hard to reach”. Before joining Juniper Education she was Head of an Independent school, lead for Health and Safety and Safeguarding, a member of the strategic planning board sub committee and project manager on ESIF funded provision on the Pre NEET delivery.

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