UNICEF/Ministry of Health study reveals impact of COVID-19 challenges on mental wellness of children and families in Guyana
information critical to guide response
GEORGETOWN, 26 SEPTEMBER 2020 – A recent study by UNICEF Guyana, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH), provides insight on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental wellness of children and adults across the country.
The survey was conducted in July 2020 as part of UNICEF’s wider response to COVID-19 in Guyana. In partnership with the MoH, UNICEF conducted three rounds of Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) surveys to understand the situation, monitor the behaviour change continuum and make evidence informed interventions. Based on inferences drawn from the findings of rounds one and two, it was felt that there was a need for a deeper understanding of the mental wellness of children, including adolescents, and adults. Hence, a third round of the KAP survey was conducted with special emphasis on mental wellness.
“COVID-19 has impacted the daily lives of children and their families and risks to child mental health and well-being are considerable,” said acting UNICEF Country Representative Irfan Akhtar. “Understanding the extent to which children are affected is critical and we need to reimagine to guide the response and better protect children during this pandemic.”
“These studies have helped us to identify people’s behaviour concerning COVID-19. It has assisted us in segmenting the population and identifying those persons who are most vulnerable, such as older persons and those with underlying comorbidities, and their perception of their risk,” said Minster of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony. On behalf of the Government of Guyana, he thanked UNICEF for carrying out the KAP surveys. “We are pleased that these studies have also examined issues of mental health and the challenges that families have in coping with COVID-19,” said Minister Anthony. “Based on these studies, we have been able to develop a risk communication strategy. We are confident that by taking a more scientific approach, we will be able to identify the myths and the misconceptions, and through our risk communication programme, we have started to address these issues.”
Analysis of the survey results indicate that the pandemic is having a serious impact on youth mental wellness with adolescents considering stress due to COVID-19 as very serious. Other key findings for adolescents include:
- The three main concerns that contributed to stress during the current pandemic were concern about the risk of being exposed to the coronavirus (57.6%), uncertainty about the future (44.9%) and adapting to a different lifestyle (41.7%).
- The top five ways in which adolescent survey participants were affected emotionally and mentally by the lifestyle changes due to the pandemic were sleeping too little (57%), fear (54.8%), worry (51.1%), loneliness (48.9%), and irritability (48.1).
- Due to the changes consequent to the pandemic, 44.4% of adolescent respondents communicated that they were frequently anxious, 41.5% reported that they were crying often, 38.5% divulged that they had increased drug use, 34.8% said they withdrew from others, 34.1% said they were regularly depressed, 31.9% said they felt hopeless, 25.2% frequently considered acts of self-harm, and 20.7% reported persistent disturbing thoughts.
- Approximately three in ten (30%) respondents age 15-19 years have no one to share their problems with.
To address children well-being during and after COVID-19, a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach has been recommended. The full report includes a number of other recommendations for actions that the Government of Guyana, other organizations and families can take to reduce and mitigate some of the harmful impacts of the pandemic.
“We note the recommendations and our staff at all our health care facilities will be working to implement them. This includes providing counselling and other psychosocial support,” Minister Anthony said. “In addition, the Government of Guyana recognizes that there must be a holistic approach, a whole government approach, and ultimately a whole of society approach. These KAP studies will undoubtedly assist Guyana in assisting our citizens.”
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.