Victoria (VT): Welcome to a new series called shout. This is a series of problems that many young people experience. These problems should not be ignored. They needed to be shouted from everyone. Awareness is the start to a solution to many of these problems. We cannot hide the fact that children suffer. We cannot solve it just with medicine. We all have a part in helping a child that is having problems.
Our first guest is Oliver and his family. Oliver is 12 years old, and like most of us, has been in lockdown as most of us for a year. He now suffers from Anxiety
Nearly 300,000 young people in Britain have an anxiety disorder.
In the UK, anxiety disorders are estimated to affect 5-19% of all children and adolescents, and about 2-5% of children younger than 12.
Let us invite Oliver’s mother for a chat
VT: Welcome to Shout.
Mother: Thank you.
VT: Tell me a bit about your family.
Mother: I am married to Andrew. He works as a cook and I work in a supermarket. We have two children. Oliver is 12 and Heidi is 10. We live in a small comfortable house.
VT: So you are a normal middle-class family.
Mother: Yes, we cannot complain about our economy. We have our own house and we have everything a house needs. Our children have everything that they need. We are lucky to have what we have.
VT: The Corona crises must have affected your family. I am not just talking about Oliver, but your family life must have been turned upside down.
Mother: That is true. It is the same with most families in this country. I still have my work as supermarkets were not affected by the lockdowns. My husband has not been at work for a year and has not been paid. Our savings have been used. I am not complaining as we were lucky to have savings.
VT: I suppose the children have been home
Mother: Yes, they have. They have had online classes, but it’s not the same. All their activities such as dance and have been cancelled. We have hardly been with other people.
VT: Have your children had any contact with their friends or extended family?
Mother: The school was re-opened for a month or so. Then we had the second wave of the virus. We have not seen grandparents that much as we were afraid because of their age. We heard that the virus was worse for old people. Heidi has had a few friends over, however, Oliver seemed to withdraw more and more and be afraid of everything.
VT: Explain how he was afraid.
Mother: The more he heard about Corona, the worse he became. Oliver was afraid of getting the virus and from day to day, this became worse. Now he is a shell of what he was. To be honest, I have thought of taking him to the doctors, so we could get some medicine.
VT: I want to go into detail on how he reacts and how he changed. Before we get to this, your children have been home with their father. How did this go?
Mother: My husband was not born with patience. He is a good father, but taking care of children all day has been stressful for him. On top of that, he worried about his job and our finances.
VT: I think it’s time to meet Oliver’s dad.
Olivers Dad comes out
VT: Welcome. So your wife was telling us how hard COVID 19 has been for your family.
Dad: Yes, like most families. It is hard being locked up. It’s like being imprisoned. The way I figure it, our family came out of lockdown without getting the virus and without killing each other.
VT: Does this mean you could hardly cope being with your children?
Dad: At the start, it was great. I always wanted more time with them. Working as a cook meant that I often was at work when the children were home. It was great to be together with them and doing things together.
Dad: Being in a limited space does try one’s patience. I have a daughter that is always hyper and talks nonstop and a son that hid in his room and did not want any human contact. I am not patient and I found out that I am not the ideal father.
Mother: You are human.
VT: How was Oliver before the lockdown?
Mother: He was like any other boy. He was a little Chucky... always getting into trouble, not afraid of mud. He always had a friend to play with. Oliver loved sports and he loved everything from the mall to nature. He always had a smile on his face.
VT: So when did it start going wrong?
Dad: When Covid was first announced, Oliver would ask many questions. The questions developed into him thinking it was the end of the world. He would look at the news and listen to the doctors explaining the virus.
VT: Did you not explain that few died from it, especially children?
Dad: I did and this helped for some time until a young girl from Belgium died from the virus. Then things started going downhill.
Dad: I noticed that Oliver would wash his hands or sanitise everything, I started worrying when he sanitised his fork.
Mom: At one stage he wanted us all to wear surgical gloves.
VT: When did you notice his social problems?
Dad: We could see that Oliver was becoming more afraid of getting the virus. He demanded that we all wore masks at home, and he continued his obsession with sanitizing everything. He slowly started to stay in his bedroom and after time went by, he refused to leave his room.
VT: Did you try and persuade him to come out of his room?
Dad: No. I must admit I was lenient with Oliver. I thought it was a stage he was going through. I think I realised how bad it was when he wanted to eat all his meals in his room.
Mother: This was not something we were prepared for. We did not know what to do!
VT: Is this true?
Dad: Indeed. Our life was turned upside down when there was a lockdown. We had to be careful with our economy. I was unsure what the future would bring or even if I would have a job. I had a daughter that was restless and missing her friends and I had a son that isolated himself. I honestly do not know what I could have done. I do not know what we could do now!
VT: Do you blame your husband for not dealing with this in a better way?
Mother: No. When I was home, we talked about it. We kept on asking what we could do? We did not think the lockdown would last so long, and the fact that we did not know when it would end has confused things more.
VT: What are you doing to help Oliver now?
Mother: We are talking to Oliver and trying to let him know that the worse is over. We convinced him that he should come today and get some help, This would be the first time he left his room in months.
VT: Oliver has been brave enough to come to “Shout” today. Let us welcome him!
VT: Welcome to Shout! You have been listening to what we have been saying. What is going through your mind?
Oliver: I am not insane. Covid19 is a serious virus and I do not want to get it. I know I would survive it, but there are long term effects of the virus. I could have memory loss or lose some brain cells.
VT: You seem to be very informed about the virus.
Oliver: I look at the news channel and follow it every day.
VT: Do you think that being isolated is the answer?
Oliver: I do leave my room to go to the toilet and have a bath. I do understand what you are saying. I want to come out to be with my family. It’s just hard for me.
VT: Do you want to be isolated?
Oliver; No. I want to leave my room. I just can’t. Even now, my heart is going so fast that I want to hide in my room. I can’t help the way I feel. I want to feel otherwise.
VT: I think you are afraid
Oliver: I suppose I am. If you look at the news, hundreds and thousands of people die because people do not take caution.
VT: Do you want the life you had?
Oliver: I love playing football with friends, and cycling. I do not think anything will ever go back to normal. We will always have Corona or something worse. It’s already mutating to more dangerous viruses.
VT; I would like to bring Doctor Mona out, that is a psychiatrist, and see if she can help
Doctor Mona comes out
VT: What are your thoughts about what you have heard?
Doctor Mona; Oliver is not alone. There are so many victims of Corona that have not even had the virus. We have children like Oliver and adults like Oliver. We have old people that do not get visits. We have people afraid they have lost their jobs. We have children that are isolated. The list could go on.
VT: Should Oliver get medicine to help him?
Doctor Mona; This would need to be considered after a more detailed evaluation. While medication to help his anxiety may help, I think that there could be alternatives. Medication is not the answer to everything.
VT: Could Oliver’s parents have done something differently?
Doctor Mona; I think they have done the best they could. Remember this lockdown and situation was new for us all. We all coped in our way. Oliver felt safe by using masks and what not and in the end isolating himself.
VT: Oliver followed the news a lot, could this be a problem?
Doctor Mona; I think so. The news has been about Corona and more Corona. This could be a lot for a young mind to understand. It’s one bad news after another. We experienced the same during 9-11, Children were glued to the TV. How could they understand it? This is the same situation we are in now? It is hard to understand the lockdown and Corona.
VT: So Oliver should not see the news?
Doctor Mona; If Oliver does see the news, his parents should see it with him. There must be a discussion on what they see and if it is relevant to their lives. Also, remember that news is often negative. We do not hear the good stories, like the good work of nurses, or people helping older people with shopping.
VT: So do you understand that people are afraid?
Doctor Mona; Of course I do. However, like everything in life, there must be a balance. I think it is important that we try to live a life as normal as we do while listening to the expert’s advice and guidance. We must do our best not to spread this virus and not hide in a box.
VT: So finally, what can Oliver’s parents do?
Doctor Mona; Oliver is not a lost cause. I would advise that they continue to talk with Oliver and help him understand reality and with vaccinations, things are getting better. They can help with his isolation by small steps. Let Oliver know that the house is safe, and when he is comfortable, take a walk where no people are. This will end with Oliver being more and more comfortable, that after some time, he can be with other people.
Mother; We will try that
Oliver: I want to try
VT: Corona has turned our world upside down and people forget the mental problems it has caused. It is at times like this that we need each other. We need to trust the experts. We need to protect ourselves and others. We must remember the victims and help them.
In the next SHOUT, we look at what it’s like for a child to lose someone they love.
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