Covid effects on Italy

The mental effects of Covid on the youngest

The pandemic didn’t just impact the economy. It impacted the mental health of everyone and Italians weren’t immune. Indeed, Italians of every age experienced psychological hardships due to the lockdowns, isolation, and anxiety of the contagion. Indeed, the Covid effects on kids are real. 

“In Italy, while the entire healthcare system is undergoing great stress and an unparalleled challenge, the mental health, its users, the families, and all the families that feel the stress, they just tolerate in silence,” wrote the Italian psychiatrists in a letter to the country’s Prime Minister.

Forgetting mental health 

The association Telefono Azzurro has been protecting and defending children and teenagers for over 30 years. It also offers a helpline, for anyone looking for support. In 2020, the Telefono Azzurro registered an increase in calls about suicide (+32%) and self-harm. These calls were all from minors. 

The director of the pediatric ER in the hospital Umberto I (Rome), doctor Fabio Midulla, confirms this trend among children and teenagers. Between January and March of 2021, the episodes of attempted suiced and self-harm have tripled, compared to 2020. 

“The health safety measures, the use of masks, and social distancing created a drop in respiratory illnesses,” said Midulla to ilfattoquotidiano.it, “the kids got sick less, but mental issues exploded.”

Children and teenagers arrive at the hospital with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. Doctor Giuseppe Bertolozzi from the hospital Maggiore in Milan has seen the same, scary truths. He also saw a rise in eating disorders and hysterical crises. 

Giusi Giannone is a therapist who works with the younger generations, focusing on students. During the lockdown and the worst months of the pandemic, kids studied from home. This forced cohabitation exacerbated old problems, especially between kids and parents. Hence, past problems resurfaced, like anorexia, which is a way to call for attention. 

Then, students went back to school. And this caused aggression and impatience -towards teachers and classmates. High schoolers even experienced anxiety, especially when thinking about the future. 

“Discomfort isn’t like fresh water, if left untreated it worsens and it get more and more hard to get out of it,” said Giannone, “both kids and teenagers experience difficulty in focusing.” 

Covid effects on kids: more than anxiety 

In fact, the pandemic had another effect on both mental and physical health. Doctors saw an increase in precocious puberty. Indeed, kids grew too fast during the Covid emergency. The pediatric hospital Bambino Gesù reported this issue. 

By analyzing its younger patients, the hospital’s researchers discovered that girls are becoming sexually mature before 8, while for boys it’s before 9 years-old. That’s too soon and the consequences include the developing of sexual characters and a rapid growth in height. But, when the peak is over, these kids remain small, compared to the others. 

While there are medications to slow down precocious puberty, it needs to be diagnosed in time. In 2020, the cases more than doubled, signaling an issue related to the pandemic. Researchers are still analyzing the data, however three trends have emerged. 

When the lifestyle changes too much 

For starters, the lifestyle of the kids changed and exercise was scarce. Plus, the food preferences changed (with many cooking at home). Finally, they spent too much time in front of a screen for school -and not only. So, everything changed for Italian kids. And it affected both their body and mind. 

The lack of physical exercise exacerbated the mental issues of the younger generations. In fact, before Covid, 59% of teenagers between 14 and 19 practiced a sport. During the pandemic, the percentage dropped by 30%. Since online workouts didn’t work for them, kids and teenagers felt sad and apathetic. The survey of the Ipsos association reported they felt anxious and angry too. 

Not doing any sport also affected their sleep. In fact, 31% of kids between 6 and 13 had issues sleeping. Of them, 29% had to go to a doctor. When it comes to teenagers between 14 and 19, 25% of them had to take sleeping medications. 

Lack of sleep, of socialization, and of exercise affect the mental health of Italian youth are some of the Covid effects on kids and teenagers. Is there a plan in place? Not yet and that’s what the country’s psychiatrists and therapists have been denouncing. Including the BRF Foundation, the Institute for Psychiatric and Neuroscience Research. 

“It is essential to strengthen, through special actions and coordination, tight connections in the healthcare system,” said the BRF Foundation President Armando Piccinni, “connections among social support and volunteering.” So, without a strong support system, the younger generations in Italy might have to pay a high price -even after the pandemic is over. 

Do you need good news? Read about the locals’ initiative against the Tampon tax.

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