Staying Sane in the Times of Covid-19

An article by Dr Emma Blake, Consultant Paediatrician, now Chair / Convenor of PMHA

Well, in these crazy times – with universal maelstroms – all of us are trying to cope with our personal whirlpools. Being a front line medic, whilst coping as a “full time” parent and teacher; trying to keep yourself, your kids and everyone else around you sane – it’s not manageable, is it?

I wish I had all the answers. Medice, cura te ipsum. Heal thyself. But no-one knows the cure for Covid-19, no immunisation – even against the anxiety and psychological impact of it. As a paediatrician, mother of four, with “shielded” vulnerable relatives; suddenly homeschooling three children and trying to get a “gap-year” son trapped in Vietnam back to the family;  I, like the rest of us, am trying to juggle all the balls whilst wearing minimal / flimsy PPE.

At the PMHA (Paediatric Mental Health Association) we are trying to find resources to support parents who are doing the best they can to care for their children’s health, education and emotional needs at home. A popular PMHA Facebook post (which has currently reached over 9.6 million people!) suggests taking the pressure off ourselves with regard to home-schooling or children; to try to take the stress out of the situation as much as possible.

Enjoy the time together – “cuddle up and read, read, read” etc. The best way to de-stress kids is to de-stress ourselves (often easier said than done). Obviously older kids (GCSEs and A Levels) need more structured work (thank you teachers!), but the principle is the same – our kids will remember what this felt like at home. They will remember the emotions and relationships.

We are seeing an increase in mental health presentations to paediatric wards – when we are doing our best to keep people safe at home. However, not all young people are safe at home. Abuse is escalating, domestic violence and parental mental health / substance abuse difficulties are worsening. As paediatricians, we need to be more aware of mental health and safeguarding issues, more than ever. The most vulnerable children are more hidden from view – and we are waiting for a tsunami (not only from Covid-19 ventilated elderly – but also young people who have had to cope with the “perfect storm”at home).

In addition to our Facebook page; the PMHA, along with Serena Haywood (St Georges) and Simon Chapman (Kings) have also developed a website – Indoor Explorers – to try to bring together resources to support parents at this difficult time.

If you have any useful resources for parents or professionals at this time – please share them with us at ContactPMHA@gmail.com

Dr Emma Blake,
Child Mental Health & General Paediatric Consultant,
Designated Doctor for Safeguarding Children, Isle of Wight,
Vice Chair PMHA and Chair of Child Mental Health (CSAC) at the RCPCH

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