Young people suffering from ‘COVID hangover’
Young people are suffering from a ‘COVID hangover’, according to a Carinity’s therapeutic experts.
Carinity Narangba youth counselling centre Program Manager and counsellor, Diana Clift, says while the height of the COVID pandemic has passed, its residual effects are impacting on the mental health of children and teenagers.
“During COVID, everybody was told what to do with wearing masks, isolating and lockdowns. After that structure ended, all of a sudden people’s anxiety levels are going up wondering how to deal with uncertainty, which increases anxiety,” Diana said.
“It’s like following a disaster like a cyclone or bushfires, after you have had all this emotional support and that support ends, then what happens? People wonder, ‘How do I restart my life’?
“What’s happened with society post-COVID is people are thinking, ‘What’s going to happen next? What’s the next bad thing that will happen?’
“COVID has left some kids and teenagers feeling absolutely vulnerable. If they’re in a family which has compounded anxiety, as well as the stress of day-to-day living, that family unit could be ready to implode.”
Counsellors and therapists have witnessed an increase in incidents of domestic and family violence and homelessness in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, dubbed the ‘COVID fog’.
The declining mental health of some young people and their parents have been exacerbated by external pressures and mental health triggers. These range from the cost of living – including the price of rent, petrol and food – to the war in Ukraine and global tensions with China.
Samantha Caves, a child and family therapist at Carinity Illoura in Beaudesert, says disasters like bushfires and floods “increase people’s stress, disrupt social norms and support networks and exacerbate pre-existing health determinants.”
“Grief, social isolation, and trauma can amplify experiences of violence in the family home during and following a disaster,” Samantha said.
“Uncertainty brings about anxiety. That’s what many young people, teenagers particularly, are having a lot of anxiety and panic attacks about: the unknown.
“We see a lot of families where parents have jobs, but they can’t afford to rent anywhere because of the lack of rental properties, and housing prices having increased so much.
“While the children may not understand any of it, they’re picking up on their parents’ negative energy, the way they talk and the way they interact with other people.”
Diana says children impacted by family breakdown and domestic violence are the “invisible victims and the collateral damage of an adult dilemma”.
“Parents tend to not want to overload their children with adult issues, but it seeps into the child’s world and all of a sudden they can’t focus while at school or make friends,” Diana explains.
“How do we help these children with issues such as parental separation if they don’t have coping mechanisms and they aren’t wired to deal with that emotional trauma?
“My goal is to make sure that we reach positive outcomes with each client so that when they’re ready to exit our service they’re in a better place mentally – and they have the strategies, skills and tools to be resilient.”