56,000 Suffolk youngsters at risk of developing mental health difficulties from Covid-19 impact
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Children's mental health campaigners in Suffolk have raised fresh fears about the impact the Covid-19 lockdown will have on tens of thousands of youngsters, and urged schools to commit to emotional safety measures.
Parents and Carers Together (PACT), which works with families every day, said it should be assumed that "many, if not most children and young people will have experienced at least one ACE [adverse childhood experience] in the past year," and called on schools and health services to be mindful of those difficulties.
According to the community interest company, around 56,000 Suffolk youngsters risked developing mental health conditions.
Among the issues youngsters may have faced are loneliness or isolation, bereavement if a loved one died from Covid-19, abuse or neglect, and strained social ties with their peers.
Bec Jasper, co-director of PACT, said: "We know some children and young people will bounce back from these experiences, but others will have experienced trauma and this may not be obvious or apparent for some time to come.
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"We would like to ask for a commitment that all Suffolk schools will sign up to using a 'trauma informed approach', supported by Suffolk County Council and the clinical commissioning groups, and then we can rest somewhat assured that these young people will be shown kindness, compassion and an understanding that the times we have lived through, and continue to live through, are acknowledged, and they will provide a place of emotional safety for our children and young people to grow and develop as they try to reintegrate back into school."
PACT provides support and advice to families where a youngster may be facing mental health difficulties - whether diagnosed or not - and urged families to seek support if they need it.
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Ms Jasper said it was recognised there were some barriers to seeking help, such as parents or carers fearing they could be blamed for their child's needs, a mistrust of professional services, or even the symptoms youngsters displayed such as low mood, guilt or anxiety, but stressed that families were not alone.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to outline the first measures to easing restrictions on Monday, with school children beginning to return to the classroom from March 8.
However, it is not yet clear whether there will be a phased return , and what additional support or Covid-secure measures will be included.
To find out more about support available visit the PACT website here or the county council website for the children and young people's emotional wellbeing hub.