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Unearthing the Impact of COVID-19 on Children and Youth’s Mental Health

By Dr. Yousif Eisa Mohamed; Pediatrics Department, Associate Specialist at Al-Ahli Hospital - Doha / Qatar

Covid-19 has severely impacted people’s lives. Even 2 years after the pandemic, parents are continuously reporting their deep concerns for their children academic development, social development and their physical and mental health. Academic researchers have proved that COVID-19 pandemic has significant influence on children mental health and disease.

In US, proportion of increased mental health-related emergency room (ER) visits during the pandemic appear as follows:

  • Children 5-11 years up 24%
  • Youth 12-17 years of age up 31% 

Globally, during the first year of COVID-19

  • 1 in 4 youth experienced clinically significant depression.
  • 1 in 5 youth experienced clinically elevated anxiety symptoms. 

It is also noted that youth without depressive symptoms experienced significantly more depressive symptoms than pre-pandemic era. 

While youth with previous health problems before the pandemic got much worse, and have exaggerated response.

Not only that, but youth with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis experienced more mental health problems than those with negative diagnosis, 7% vs 3.4%.

Most common mental health issues after COVID-19 infection include:

  • Mood liability
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder ( OCD )
  • Anxiety
  • ADHD
  • Trauma or stress disorders
  • Post-covid Syndrome or Long-term COVID can, but rarely, occur in children and can appear with symptoms of common psychiatric diagnoses

Neurological and Psychiatric Symptoms Post-COVID-19 Infection include:

Loss of taste and smell, headaches, seizures, stroke, encephalopathy, vascular disease, anxiety, depression, fatigue, concentration issues and memory issues.

During COVID-19 Pandemic children missed schools. This resulted in many psycho-social issues such as: 

  • Lower social-emotional skills attainment
  • Academic underachievement
  • Issues with online learning including technical problems, unable to get teachers’ support and poor self-motivation.
  • COVID-19 pandemic period is also associated with prolonged hours of screen time, social media engagement and gaming.

A study in Canada found that 12% of adolescents are spending more than 10 hours a day on social media.

Higher TV or social media time has been linked to worsening psychosocial well-being, Conduct Disorder (CD) issues as well as hyperactivity/inattention.

More time spent connecting with friends virtually versus time spent with family or completing school home work was linked with higher depressive symptoms.

Most distressing issues for youth include:

  • Not able to see their friends
  • Fear that one of family members or friends contract COVID-19 and become very sick and/or die.
  • Inability to participate or attend extracurricular and social activities.
  • Also adolescents suffer from existential dread and extremely decreased life satisfaction.

Risks of Behavioral Health Disorders:

  • Youth with past history of struggles to emotionally regulate
  • Living in areas with more disease burden.
  • Reduced contact with supportive adult: parents , teachers, coaches.

How to Support Youth and Families:

We need to work with youth and families to implement consistent and predictable routines for school work, sleep, screen use, physical activity and in-person socialization.  It is also important to assess and discuss what youth are doing online. We, additionally, need to provide support to parents through  therapy referrals, parents coaching, and appropriate educational content.

Interprofessional Strategies: 

  1. Strategies to improve interprofessional care: Identify team members and understand their roles and responsibilities. Outline clear expectations from each team member
  2. Create clear policies and procedures for interprofessional care
  3. Share psycho-educational resources among team members.
  4. Self-care


  1. The COVID-19 pandemic influence the mental health through physiological impacts as well as psychosocial changes.
  2. There is a mental health crisis among pediatric population
  3. Healthcare providers can evaluate risks and protective factors that influence patients so as to improve their mental health and wellbeing
  4. Engaging with interprofessional care is likely to enhance treatment of patients and its outcome


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