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How COVID-19 second wave has impacted children’s mental health, Health News, ET HealthWorld

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By Arushi Malik

The first wave of COVID-19 came as a surprise to everyone, which was all about understanding what this “new normal” is. Each age group had their own challenges, but for many children it was difficult to complete online classes without outdoor games and also understand what a “pandemic” is in the first wave. The second wave was a very different ball game, from just adapting to this pandemic to understanding disease and death and their proximity. The virus has affected not only the physical but also the mental health of children.

NCPCR reported that at least 3,621 children have been orphaned due to COVID-19 and 26,000 have lost a parent. The dire state our country went through has put everyone in a situation that makes people hopeless and helpless. Children who are dependent on adults for their basic needs and who have been exposed to an overwhelming stimulus, who have experienced so much, their childhood was “snatched away” from them, has a great influence on their psyche.

India has approximately 472 million children under the age of 18, and with the advent of the third wave, it is even more important to shed light on children’s mental health and address the challenges they face.

Indian teenagers have often been reported to have high levels of psychological distress and are now experiencing a four-fold increase in anxiety and depressive symptoms. This is an indication of the profound impact of the pandemic on the psychological well-being of children, which is why it is so important to acknowledge it.

Another crucial aspect in connection with this pandemic was the “lockdown”. It has adversely affected the mental health of many children across the country.

Children used to go to schools and parks that gave them the opportunity to socialize, but since these public spaces are not available, it is especially difficult for children. As adults, it is easier to understand lockdown, but it becomes more and more difficult for children to stay inside, and it turns out that children become stubborn and have tantrums. It is difficult for adolescents to stay locked at home during this stage of seeking help from their peers and exploring the world. In particular, they experience high levels of emotional distress, leading to an increase in substance abuse, thoughts of suicide, and acting out behaviors. Likewise, the lockdown has also created chaos in children’s routines due to the lack of certainty of what to do next and limited activities.

In addition, this pandemic is difficult for children with developmental disabilities and requires ongoing support. A WHO survey found that due to the pandemic, mental health services have decreased by 93 percent while demand has increased.

It is important to address these issues as soon as the child shows signs of stress because if not addressed in a timely manner, they can lead to these children developing mental disorders. Some behaviors to watch out for include withdrawal, acting out, feeling depressed, lack of motivation, helplessness, being overly engaged in social media and avoiding interactions, loss of confidence, or tantrums. This is an unprecedented situation and children in particular need all the support they can to cope with these challenging times.

Here are some things you can do to improve the mental health and wellbeing of your children:

• Be emotionally and mentally present
• Communicate openly and honestly
• Provide honest information
• Provide personal space
• Create a routine
• Engagement and interaction
• Contact a professional

The second wave of COVID-19 has shaken everyone to their core and had harrowing effects on mental health. These times are especially difficult for children who have just started their lives with a pandemic. As adults, it is more and more important for us to ensure that this negative effect can be kept as low as possible, and to work together to support all our efforts to contribute to the well-being of the children.

Arushi Malik is a consulting psychologist at Kaleidoscope

(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are exclusive to the author and ETHealthworld.com does not necessarily endorse them. ETHealthworld.com is not responsible for any damage caused directly or indirectly to any person / organization).

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Why Social Anxiety Remains A Deadly Silent Killer For Vulnerable Young People

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Depressed, upset and anxious young woman

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Last week, a UK court awarded damages amounting to £50,000 to the parents of a 20-year-old student who tragically took her own life after her university was adjudged to have discriminated against her disability by failing to make reasonable accommodations to the way it undertook academic assessments.

Chronically shy and suffering from debilitating anxiety, Natasha Abrahart, a physics student at the University of Bristol, was found dead in her flat in April 2018.

The next day, the young woman who was petrified of public speaking and so shy that, on rare nights out, she would often rely on friends to order food and drinks for her, had been due to participate in a group presentation to staff and students in a 329-seat lecture hall.

In his ruling, Judge Alex Ralton criticized the university for failing to provide Natasha with an alternative means of relaying the results of her experiments, stating that it was “obvious that such a process does not automatically require face-to-face oral interaction and there are other ways of achieving the same.”

The 46-page written judgment also noted, “it was accepted by the medical experts that the primary stressor and cause of Natasha’s depressive illness was oral assessment.”

It was certainly not the case that the university had been unaware of Natasha’s deteriorating mental health in the lead up to her death either. Earlier in the winter term, she had attempted to take her own life and had reported this to staff at the university in an email.

Judge Ralton also drew attention to the fact that Natasha had been, over time, slowly accruing extremely low scores on other oral assessments for her course on account of being unable to perform due to her paralyzing anxiety, sometimes electing not to turn up at all.

Though this may have contributed significantly to Natasha’s declining mental health, the judge stopped short of finding the university guilty of negligence, or suggesting that it bore any direct responsibility for the young physicist’s untimely death.

Most frustratingly, the investigation revealed that several ideas for how Natasha might be enabled to present her laboratory findings to academic staff via alternative means had been bandied about by course administrators but none of these were followed through.

Out of sight, out of mind

Attempting to dissect the precise pathology of prejudice from a distance, and after the event, is a fraught exercise indeed.

However, it may reasonably be speculated that Natasha had been somewhat caught up in the crosswinds of problematic social attitudes and biases that intersect both the experiences of being young and possessing an invisible disability.

Concerning the latter, it remains unfortunate that still, in 2022, mental health disorders remain poorly understood and underappreciated by the public at large – particularly when contrasted to physical disabilities that can be more comprehensively signaled with clear visual markers like being in a wheelchair.

This is, even more, the case for mental health disorders that exist on the borders of what is simply understood to be part of the “normal” day-to-day reality of the human experience.

Social anxiety arising from something like giving oral presentations is a classic example of this. As presentations are such a common aspect of work and education nowadays and so many individuals, especially those who don’t undertake them regularly, do tend to get a little nervous ahead of time – it becomes infinitely easy for blasé, dismissive attitudes to creep in .

“Oh, don’t worry. You’ll be fine. We’ve all been there.” Unfortunately, these are typical platitudes often thrown about that demonstrate little understanding of someone who possesses a genuine anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are not about getting a “little nervous.” They can be as crippling and debilitating as any physical illness but because they are not always perceptible to the casual observer – they often fly under the radar.

In effect, telling someone with chronic social anxiety and shyness that they will be fine making an oral presentation in front of hundreds of people because “we all get a little nervous” is as absurd as telling somebody with a motor impairment requiring a cane or crutches to walk not to worry because “everyone’s feet get a little sore sometimes.”

The fragility of youth

Natasha’s sad story also gives pause for reflection on how, as a society, we frame experiences of what it means to be young and how young people are treated.

From an early age and right up into the higher echelons of academia, education is equated with a sense of the rite of passage.

With mostly honorable intentions, growing up, young people are exposed to the broadest possible variety of experiences in order to maximize opportunities and ensure hidden talents don’t go unnoticed and untapped.

The downside is, of course, that pushing fragile minds, in which genuine confidence and self-assurance may yet have established a secure foothold, into activities that are profoundly unsuited to that individual’s personality and ability – be they participating in sports, public speaking or just conforming socially—can be brutalizing.

Most young people ride the wave and come out on the other side. They may even find it character-building. For others, it can be shattering.

Commenting after the ruling against the University of Bristol, Natasha’s father, a retired university lecturer, said, “The University of Bristol broke the law and exposed our daughter to months of wholly unnecessary psychological trauma, as she watched her grades plummet, and her hopes for the future crumble before her eyes.”

Her mother further added that the university should “finally take its head out of the sand and recognize that now is the time for change.”

What that change should look like is for the university to determine based on the existing practices and policies it has in place.

It would be hoped that this would be underpinned by an ethos that dictates that young people, whether they are visibly or invisibly disabled, or indeed, not disabled at all, may not yet recognize when or how to ask for help or what rights they are entitled to.

That’s why, perhaps, they need the institutional support systems that sit behind them to be prepared to be extra vigilant and proactive. That way, more young folk like Natasha can ride the wave and safely swim over to the other side.

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Cases of deadly illness in men and boys soar – the 13 signs you must watch for

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Cases of deadly illnesses are on the rise in men and boys across England, data has revealed.

In the last five years, hospital admissions for people with eating disorders have risen by 84 percent.

Medics at the Royal College of Psychiatrists found there were 11,049 more admissions for illnesses such as bulimia and anorexia in 2020-2021 than in 2015-2016, bringing the total to 24,268 admissions across England.

Of those, a strong rise was seen in boys and young men, from 280 hospital admissions in 2015-2016 to 637 in 2020-2021.

Eating disorders take a huge toll on the people that suffer from them and are often referred to as the ‘deadliest mental health condition’.

One in five deaths of people with anorexia is due to suicide, while all eating disorders see high rates of self-harm and depression.

Admissions in children have also risen in recent years, going from 3,541 to 6,713, with a 35 percent increase in the last year alone as the COVID pandemic hit.

Medics have now launched new guidelines to help doctors identify those who might be at risk.

They stated that the signs someone is dangerously ill can be missed by GPs.

The report found that many patients who are suffering from an eating disorder will often have normal blood work – meaning the alarm isn’t raised for doctors.

People with anorexia can also have dangerously low levels of electrolytes like potassium – that are not reflected in these tests.

Those who suffer from bulimia may also have disturbances and struggle with stomach problems.

They may also be a normal weight and it was previously found that people were being denied help if their Body Mass Index (BMI) was too high.

dr Dasha Nicholls, who chaired the development of the new medical emergencies in eating disorders guidelines, said awareness of common symptoms needs to be raised.

“Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating don’t discriminate, and can affect people of any age and gender,” Dr. Nicholls said. Getty Images/iStockphoto

The 13 signs you must watch out for include:

  1. Have become withdrawn
  2. Spending lots of time worrying about weight and body shape
  3. Avoiding socializing
  4. Eating very little food
  5. Someone having bad breath or smelling sick
  6. Anxious and depressed
  7. Strict habits and rules around food
  8. Exercising more
  9. Dramatic weight loss
  10. Cutting food into small pieces
  11. Lying about food and weight
  12. Wearing loose or baggy clothes
  13. Going to the bathroom after eating

dr Nicholls added: “Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating don’t discriminate, and can affect people of any age and gender.

“They are mental health disorders, not a ‘lifestyle choice’, and we shouldn’t underestimate how serious they are.

“Even though anorexia nervosa is often referred to as the deadliest mental health condition, most deaths are preventable with early treatment and support.

“Full recovery is possible if spotted and treated early.”

Current guidance, Dr. Nicholls said, is poorly misunderstood – leading to devastating consequences for thousands of parents and their families.

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She added that in order to stop the “eating disorder epidemic” in its tracks then new guidance needs to be implemented.

An NHS spokesperson said that demand for services has increased significantly over the pandemic.

“With the NHS treating a third more children and young people than it did two years ago, it is important that all healthcare professionals are supported to better understand and respond to signs that someone is seriously ill with an eating disorder.

“Parents can also find information on potential symptoms, such as binge eating, feeling guilty after eating, negative self-image, and other signs of a potential eating disorder on the NHS website, and they should not hesitate to contact the NHS if they or their children need support.”

This story originally appeared on The Sun and has been reproduced here with permission.

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Wildfire Survivors Could Face Higher Cancer Risk – Consumer Health News

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MONDAY, May 16, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Wildfires, like the one currently raging in New Mexico, are known to cause upticks in breathing issues and heart attacks in their immediate wake for folks who live nearby.

Now, new Canadian research shows that these fires may also increase risk for lung and brain cancer over time.

People who lived within about 30 miles of wildfires over the prior 10 years were 10% more likely to develop brain cancer and had a 5% higher risk for lung cancer, compared to folks living further away from these fires.

“We saw a consistent signal for lung and brain cancer risk among people who live near wildfires,” said study author Scott Weichenthal. He’s an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health at McGill University in Montreal. “We know that a whole range of carcinogens are released during wildfires that may increase the risk for these cancers.”

Wildfires typically begin in forests, grassland or prairies, and are often caused by campfires left unattended, still-lit discarded cigarette butts, sparks from power lines, or arson.

These fires tend to occur in similar parts of the country, so people living in these areas can be continuously exposed to the potentially cancer-causing wildfire pollutants, the study authors noted.

Making matters worse, “wildfires are occurring more frequently, covering larger parts of the country, and wildfire season is starting earlier,” Weichenthal said. These changes are likely due to global warming and climate change, he believes.

For the study, Weichenthal and his colleagues (including PhD student Jill Korsiak, who led the analysis), tracked 20 years of data on more than 2 million Canadians to learn more about how wildfires affect people’s risk for certain cancers.

The study wasn’t designed to look at specific toxins in smoke that may increase cancer risks. “There’s still a lot to learn about the kind of pollution that sticks around after the fire,” Weichenthal said.

It’s not just about outdoor air pollution: “Wildfires also pollute water, soil and indoor air,” he noted.

dr Mary Prunicki, who reviewed the new study, stressed that “we know more about the short-term effects of wildfires than we do about their long-term impact.” She directs air pollution and health research at the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

On the day of and days immediately following a wildfire, there’s an uptick in hospital visits for asthma attacks, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations, and other lung conditions, Prunicki said.

“There is a strong literature showing an increase in heart attacks, cardiac arrests and strokes among people who have been exposed to wildfire smoke, especially those who have a preexisting condition,” she explained.

Anyone living near wildfire smoke may have burning eyes, a runny nose, cough and/or difficulty breathing.

Exactly what’s in the smoke depends on what is burning, Prunicki said, but “in general, wildfires contain small particulate matter that can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause health problems.

“There are various toxins that could be in the smoke that have already been associated independently with increases in lung cancer, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [PAHs],” she added.

There are steps you can take to protect your health if you live in a part of the country where wildfires are common. According to Prunicki, these including understanding your indoor air quality, and if it’s poor, using an air purifier or a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your central air conditioning or heating unit. These filters can help remove pollutants from the air you breathe.

Also, “if you have underlying heart or lung conditions, make sure you have your medication at the ready, too,” Prunicki said.

It’s important as well to reduce the risk of wildfires when you’re enjoying the great outdoors, including dousing your campfire with water until it’s cold to make sure it’s really out.

The new study was published in the May 2022 issue of The Lancet Planetary Health.

More information

Sign up for local air quality notices via the Environmental Protection Agency.

SOURCES: Scott Weichenthal, PhD, associate professor, Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Mary Prunicki, MD, PhD, director, air pollution and health research, Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif.; The Lancet Planetary Health, May 2022

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