Children’s mental health alarm as blockages trigger ‘undiagnosed and unrecognized’ problems

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Psychiatrist Pat McGorry said the pandemic was causing problems for young people who were “really in pain”, as well as their parents. He said the programs that help parents are important.

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“Young people can only survive and thrive if the scaffolding around them is strong and able to cope. We all know Victoria’s parents are really struggling right now. The teachers are. And so does the mental health workforce, ”said Professor McGorry.

John Chellew is the director of the St Kilda-based School Refusal Clinic, which works with children who feel unable to attend school when classes are in progress. He said when schools were open about 5% of children felt they couldn’t attend. The more children did not go to school, the harder it was to get them back, he said.

Mr Chellew expects the percentage of out-of-school children after school will reach around 15%.

He said schools try to involve children as best they can and that for many students – especially those struggling with social anxiety – online learning is working well. “They don’t have to worry about engaging with their peers,” he said. “They don’t have the pressure of classroom and playground worries.”

Mr Chellew does telehealth, but much of his treatment with the children is done while walking and talking in the park, permitted under state COVID-19 rules if masks are worn and the distance social is maintained.

He always has his therapy dog ​​Max – a three-year-old Pomeranian crossed with a Japanese spitz – with him during these sessions.

“Some mothers [report] their kids have had a hard time engaging in online counseling, so when they come to a park to meet a guy with a dog, they really like it and want to come back.

Mr Chellew said that many students have not engaged in online learning, despite the efforts of teachers. “Especially boys because they tend to learn more by doing rather than sitting behind a screen.

He said many children had difficulty sleeping, with some seeking support from their parents at night. “These kids feel disconnected because all of their normal activities – playing, competing, having fun, climbing trees, playing socially, participating in team sports – they have all this emotional energy that is not spent like it used to be. . “

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