A disproportionally higher number of children and adolescents have had emotional and behavioural problems as a result of the school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Its Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) have been upgraded by Hamad Medical Corporation’s Mental Health Service (MHS) to provide more targeted help for families during these difficult times. According to Dr May Jasem Almeraisi, Senior Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Director for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, parents have been calling in greater numbers since the beginning of this year due to increased stress levels in many households with children.
In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of parents reporting that their children are more irritable and have more confrontations with family or friends. It’s not uncommon for children to lose interest in hobbies that they used to enjoy, or in personal grooming. A large number of young kids have trouble concentrating and lose interest in schoolwork more rapidly. Regular sleep and eating habits typically worsen the problem, which, if left untreated, can develop to more severe anxiety and sadness, stated Dr Almeraisi.
“It is also important to remember that children’s well-being depends on the well-being of their parents or important caregivers. Hence these adults must find time to care for themselves so they have the emotional strength to care for others,” he said.
In Hamad Medical Corporation’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), outpatient care is provided to children and young people under the age of 18 and their families. According to Dr Almeraisi, the multidisciplinary team in Qatar consists of psychiatrists (psychologists), psychologists (psychiatric nurses), occupational therapists (speech and language therapists), dietitians, and social workers.
“Younger children and adolescents often express emotions and behaviours differently. For example, when upset, younger children may cry or be more irritable and parents can experience difficulty in consoling them. Whereas adolescents experiencing heightened stress or anxiety may become more withdrawn and choose to spend time alone for longer periods.” explained CAMHS Psychologist, Dr Bindu Salim.