Educational Psychology: How the Pandemic Has Impacted Children’s Mental Health

how the pandemic impacted children’s mental health

For those pursuing an MA in Educational Psychology, the COVID-19 pandemic promises to shape the field for years to come, due to its negative impact on the mental health of children and adolescents. 

The reasons are many, but they are not surprising. Because of the pandemic, schools and childcare facilities were closed. Sports leagues, extracurricular activities, play dates, and other opportunities for young people to socialize and interact with peers weren’t available. Social isolation and loneliness increased. Families experienced financial hardships. Mental health issues experienced by parents and other adult family members negatively impacted younger members of households.  

It should not be surprising then that a growing body of research paints a troubling picture of how COVID-19 has harmed young people’s mental health. 

Increases in depression, anxiety, and adjustment disorder

According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 25% of high school students reported worsening emotional and cognitive health during the pandemic. Twenty percent of parents of children ages 5-12, meanwhile, also reported worsening conditions for their children. 

FAIR Health reported that private insurance data showed a sharp increase in mental health claims for adolescents ages 13-18 in 2020 compared to 2019. Among the most frequently diagnosed mental health conditions in 2020 were depression, anxiety and adjustment disorder. 

Child abuse, suicide, and substance abuse 

Another study by the Kaiser Family Foundation points to media reports of increases in child abuse and suicide attempts by adolescents during the pandemic. 

This potential rise in suicide attempts is concerning, as the percentage of high school students who said they seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year had already increased significantly between 2017 and 2019—the two years leading up to the pandemic. 

Untreated mental health conditions  

One of the most serious impacts on children and adolescents during the pandemic has been a decrease in mental health care. Government data, cited in the Kaiser Family Foundation study mentioned above, showed a 50% drop in the number of children receiving mental health services between February to October 2020. 

This represents a major problem as the rates among young people for conditions such as anxiety, ADHD, depression, and PTSD were already high. As these conditions were treated less frequently during the pandemic, young peoples’ mental health, especially those in high-risk populations including people of color and members of the LGBTQ community, could only have deteriorated. 

Long-term effects

Unfortunately, the damage done to children and adolescents’ mental health during the pandemic will be long-term for those affected. It also will likely shape educational psychology for years to come, as those working in the field will need to address the damage done during this very unusual and unfortunate time.

Launch your career in educational psychology with a Master of Arts degree in Psychology with an Educational Psychology concentration from Carlow University in Pittsburgh. This program will prepare you to work in both primary school and university settings and help you develop the advanced research and clinical skills required for pursuit of a doctoral degree.

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