UNICEF hosts Facebook Live for young people to engage with experts around COVID-19

Be Prepared, Don’t Be Scared

Naruemon Charnvuttikul
-	UNICEF hosts Facebook Live for young people and doctors to engage with experts around COVID-19
UNICEF Thailand
17 April 2020

Everyone is in this crisis together. The young are no exception. And no one can deny that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting lives all around the world.

Everyone is experiencing some level of panic. Parents worry about their income and how they can keep their families safe; children begin to worry when their education will resume or how their future will look like if social distancing continues for months to come.

To help young people deal with COVID-19 pandemic and their fears during the physical distancing period, UNICEF Thailand recently organized a Facebook LIVE to address the most common issues. Hosted by Jomkwan Kwanyuen, Adolescent Development Officer at UNICEF Thailand, three panellists Dr. Varoth Chotpitayasunondh, Deparment of Mental Health, Dr.  Pokrath Hansasuta, Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, and Tanawat Promchot, Vice President of Children and Youth Council of Thailand joined the discussion organized via Zoom online application.

To adhere to social distancing measures, the four spoke from their own spaces; questions were sent in via Facebook Live platform by children and young people around the country. During the online panel discussion, Tanawat and many young participants sought tips to deal with stress and problems, with the two specialists offering them practical solutions.

After discussing and sharing information, the panel agreed that everyone should be aware, but should not panic. Social distancing and hygiene are key to overcoming this tough time together, but it is challenging for all family members to stay home together peacefully while trying to maintain physical distance from each other during this increasingly stressful period.

Dr. Varoth suggested children turn this crisis into opportunity. “This is the best time to open up to your parents,” said Dr. Varoth. Instead of remaining glued to their mobile phones or smart devices like before, children and parents can help create quality time rather than just physically stay at home.

A number of children and young people who have received fake news themselves might not understand why the elderly in their homes are trusting unverified information.

But building trust takes time, said Dr. Varoth. This is the best chance to spend time with senior members at home. First, try to find out the root cause of why they might believe that coronavirus disease can be cured by, for example, a simple lime soda. Then, try to explain to them that the claim hasn’t been scientifically proved.

Or delve further to see if there is a reason behind their anxiety, resulting in their sharing the false information.

“Stay open and listen to them,” he said. “You will find the cause of the problem and be able to offer help or a solution.”

An LGBTI participant raised a concern over her identity and how she felt uncomfortable being at home with her parents. Dr. Varoth suggested she spends more time with her family to open up and allow her family to learn and accept her identity.

Dr. Varoth also suggested children not over-stress about the current situation. In life, he said, there are things they can’t control. In this case, the pandemic is beyond their control; so is their schooling.

Instead of focusing on uncontrollable factors, Dr. Varoth suggested children always be prepared in their studies, pointing out that online classes will eventually be organized if everyone needs to stay home for a longer period.

But if we can’t help but be disturbed by the current situation, we should find a way to relax as quickly as possible, the doctor added. If anxiety starts to affect our capability in daily life, we should try to find the root cause and solve the problem. Otherwise, try to relax with a favourite activity. In the worst case, talk to friends or family, or consult a doctor.

Another concern raised was about working parents. While everyone has been told to stay home wherever possible, some parents are unable to do so because their jobs require their physical presence. In addition, social distancing can be difficult for some extended families with limited space. Dr. Pokrath suggested more physical distancing and extra attention to hygiene.

Always keep a distance of two meters from others, both outside and at home, the specialist counselled. Wearing a face-mask – even a cloth one – is recommended, to prevent spreading the virus and becoming infected. Working parents should shower and change into clean clothes as soon as they get home to prevent any possibility of infection. Frequent home-cleaning will also help.

Staying healthy is a way to fight against the virus, added Dr Pokrath. Everyone can become infected, but a healthy person will show less serious symptoms and recover faster than others.

After an hour of discussion, Tanawat urged children and young people to take these actions, to help stop the spread of the virus and overcome the crisis together. Apart from always keeping one’s hands clean and maintaining physical distance, children can prove that they can protect themselves and others from the disease.

Instead of becoming carriers, children should spread good practices and practical tips to other family members and the community. This way, everyone can remain strong and we will overcome this crisis together.

When talking about the heroes of the COVID-19 crisis, we tend to think of medical personnel who are at the frontline fighting the deadly virus. But in fact, Tanawat said, the fight needs the cooperation of every single member of society. Children can be a part of the fight, and every child can be a hero.

Watch Facebook LIVE https://www.facebook.com/unicefthailand/videos/150835162929164/