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

Lockdown learning and play

Opportunities for unstructured play in the early years
are really important, says Ramchandani

A while back, The Guardian published this interesting article discussing learning at home through play in the context of the Coronavirus crisis…

“Learning at home does not have to look like school and probably shouldn’t, says Britain’s first play professor. With coronavirus closures offering opportunities for home learning, and many parents more on hand during the lockdown, play can come into its own, says Paul Ramchandani, Lego professor of play at the University of Cambridge…

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/apr/21/dont-turn-your-home-into-school-lego-prof-of-play-on-lockdown-learning

Where is the voice of the child in weighing the cost of this pandemic?

Frontline paediatricians have written to the editor of the British Medical Journal, advocating for the rights and safeguarding of children 

“We call upon Government to move quickly and decisively to try and repair the harm suffered by young, vulnerable people during this pandemic. Failure to do so will come at a price too high.”

To read the full text of the letter, click below:

https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1669/rr-5

Request for information:

Any guidance on managing unwell children in acute settings who have learning difficulties or autism

Dr. Cassie Coleman, a paediatrician in Oxford, is looking for anyone who is aware of any guidance on managing unwell children in acute settings who have learning difficulties or autism.

They are going to write guidance in Oxford but would be grateful if anyone has already done some work on this in their regions and is happy to share.

If you have any information, please can you email it to: cass81@doctors.org.uk

Thank you!

Another interesting article in The Guardian

We should be overhauling the school system, not rushing to send children back

By Suzanne Moore on Monday 18th May, 2020.

“The emotional and social development of our children is paramount, not a rushed, unsafe return to constant invigilation.”

Click here to read the whole article:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/18/we-should-be-overhauling-the-school-system-not-rushing-to-send-children-back

Let us know your comments or thoughts …

Interesting article by Lee Hudson ( Consultant Paediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London)

Reopen the schools or a generation will bear the mental health scars

Click below to read the full article:

https://www.theguardian.com/global/commentisfree/2020/may/17/reopen-the-schools-or-a-generation-will-bear-the-mental-health-scars

A debate about the complex issues involved in these decisions could be useful in forming future policies. Comments please!

Children and the Internet: Advice from the NSPCC

The Internet is playing a growing role in most of our lives, including the lives of children. Especially during the current Coronavirus situation, many children are making use of the Internet to connect with their schools, as well as for home learning and entertainment.

Whilst the Internet offers many great educational and fun things for children, it also presents some risks.

The NSPCC has published a range of useful resources to help parents and carers ensure their children use the Internet safely, including:

UNICEF Report: Children in Lockdown – What Coronavirus means for UK children

“Children’s lives have been turned upside down by coronavirus. For some children, with the right support and resources, the situation will
be manageable, but for others the effects of the pandemic will cast a long shadow over their lives. The response to coronavirus already is exposing the fragile situation that many children and young people live in. Hundreds of thousands of children who rely on school, health and social systems and the support of the voluntary sector are being left unprotected as these systems are weakened. Thousands more, unknown to the system, will likely find themselves in need of support over the coming weeks, but as yet remain invisible to authorities…

Click here to read full report.