Children 'crying themselves to sleep' during mental health crisis over lockdown home schooling

There are fears about the long-term impact of the Covid lockdowns on young people's mental health Credit: ITV News West Country

A headteacher in Dorset has said her pupils are showing signs of ‘extremely poor mental health’ during the lockdown.

Alanda Phillips from Leweston Prep School in Sherborne, says many children are "crying themselves to sleep" because they’re struggling to cope with learning from home and not seeing their friends.

There are around 35 children of key workers going in daily for classes at the moment there. Alanda Phillips says they are the lucky ones - because many of her 120 pupils at home are struggling.

She said: "They are really beginning to show some signs of extremely poor mental health and every day now I would say I’m having up to ten parents contact me and say ‘my child is absolutely not ok, they’re really showing signs of anxiety and depression’.

"Parents are finding that they’re not keen to eat, they’re not keen to drink and then the other flip side are the children who are crying themselves to sleep every single night and who are waking up in the morning and the first thought that they have is ‘I don’t want to do online learning today - I want to see my friends’."

10 year-old Zac, from Somerset, says he's 'missing his friends' Credit: ITV News West Country

The freedom of the playground seems a long way away for the likes of 10 year-old Zac Cardy. For him, school is restricted to his dining room at home near Radstock.

He said: "I’m missing my friends, definitely, because I can’t really see them that often.

"I can’t see them ever, really, because they’re just online and it’s not as good as seeing them in real life."

Nell Bere, 14, says she's 'not very happy at the moment' and is stressed about her future Credit: ITV News West Country

Medical experts and campaigners have declared a mental health crisis among young people. Whilst younger children struggle with the present, for older pupils it is the future causing concern.

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Nell Bere, from Totnes, feels uncertain about whether she’ll be doing her GCSE exams next year. The 14-year-old said: "I’m worried and stressed - if they don’t cancel them I’m going to have to do them and I haven’t had the amount of work time that anyone else would have had doing this.

"I’m not very happy at the moment - I’m in my head a lot more because I have less things to do, which makes me feel miserable."

Nell's mum, Amy, said: "I think the relentless nature of lockdown has started to really test us as a family.

"The children are bored at home, they’re frustrated being stuck in the house, they’re worried about their futures, they’re anxious about the situation."

Amy says all she and other parents can do is encourage children to talk openly about how they feel and tell them it’s ok not to feel ok.

The charity Barnardo's says the UK is facing a 'mental health crisis' Credit: ITV News West Country

The charity Barnardo's has urged any parent or child to seek help if they are struggling.

South West director Sarah Crawley said: "I think we are heading towards a crisis if we don’t begin to support and deal with children and young people’s mental health issues at the earliest possible point.

"They might be coping, or they might be starting to struggle, or they might actually be becoming really unwell. We need to get them when they’re beginning to struggle to cope."

It’s not clear when schools will be full of pupils again - what is becoming clear is the impact of that on their mental health.

Where to go to get support with your mental health

There are multiple charities, including Mind, who are here to help. Below is a list of a few websites along with phone numbers of different charities who you can talk to.

Mind: 0300 123 3393

Samaritans: 116 123

YoungMinds: 0808 802 5544

Calm: 0800 58 58 58

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