The pandemic has deeply impacted children’s mental health

At the age of 10, many kids are in Grade 5 learning about different things that would aid them into their final year of elementary school. When children turn 14, they are gradually moving to their first year of high school. Finally, when these teenagers approach the age of adulthood, they are not only thinking […]
Algonquin Times writer Itunu Olayiwola

At the age of 10, many kids are in Grade 5 learning about different things that would aid them into their final year of elementary school.

When children turn 14, they are gradually moving to their first year of high school.

Finally, when these teenagers approach the age of adulthood, they are not only thinking about graduation, but also how they want their lives to be laid out.

The pandemic has affected people all over the changing world.

One of the concerning changes included the mental health of children, and how badly their mental health had degraded. Monica Armstrong, director of mental health for the Youth Services Bureau, told the CBC that the organization’s 24/7 crisis line is handling a much larger proportion of suicide calls. Armstrong added that the proportion had risen from about 12 per cent in 2018-2019 to roughly 28 per cent.

Funny enough, I felt part of the 28 percent that had caused the rise of concern toward mental health. If I was told a year ago that I would constantly be going back and forth to a hospital named CHEO, I certainly would have disagreed.

The pandemic had already distorted the growth of my mental health, forcing my brain to adapt to situations that it was not prepared for and survive as an adult without any tools for support.

My concerned parents had to take me to CHEO, and I suddenly became a regular customer at the hospital. A few months before college started, I had finished my first 12 sessions with my therapist recommended by my lawyer. However, it took three months for the hospital to get me in contact with a psychiatrist and a new therapist. I was constantly being told that I could not have access to a psychiatrist because there were too many patients.

The many restrictions from COVID — masks, online classes, and isolation from the world — confirmed the first highlight of my already degrading mental health, depression.

It is 2023, and the world is gradually changing and growing from its post-pandemic era. Many things have changed and affected kids, forcing them to develop faster mentally rather than just being kids and having fun.

Global Open Science, a research group, decided to study the effects of the pandemic on kids. They compared the MRI scans of 128 children. Half the scans were taken before the pandemic and the other half at the end of 2020. They found that the children who had lived through the first year of the pandemic had brain ages that were older than their chronological age.

The researchers found out that at the start of the pandemic, the brains had developed an area called the amygdala that can help control stress and fear. There has also been a development in the hippocampus which is the area of the brain that controls access to memories.

The researchers further learned that tissue had thinned in the cortex, which is part of the brain that controls functioning.

Algonquin College students had different opinions about the rapid growth of kids mentally.

“I do believe that children are maturing at a faster rate mentally. I notice that when I compare myself to my younger cousins, they are much more mature than I was when I was their age. They seem to know more about the world. However, as a kid, I was more in a happy bubble,” says Amelie Bender-Olivas, an interior design student.

“I both agree and disagree. I think youth are maturing faster than before with society growing so fast. However, I feel like their actual maturity is not growing. They rely too much on their parents,” says Daly McGoey, a first-year architectural technician student.

Research has found that these physical changes discovered can be increased when a person goes through significant adversity in childhood. The team was not sure if these changes were long-term changes or if these changes will impact the future lives of the children.

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