PRIMARY school children have been plagued by mental health issues during the coronavirus lockdown, research suggests.

Children aged four to 10 years have shown increased behavioural problems over the last three months including tantrums and arguments.

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A conducted by Professor Cathy Creswell at Oxford University found that youngsters in this age group were showing signs of feeling unhappy or worried, being clingy, as well as experiencing some physical symptoms linked to worry.

This is while teenagers were restless but did not appear as emotional.

Over 10,000 parents and carers are taking part in the survey that tracks mental health effects on children during the pandemic.

This is while 1,000 adolescents also took part.

In the first follow up survey almost 3,000 parents and 600 teenagers responded.

The Sun previously launched the You're Not Alone campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues and encourage people to seek help. 

Experts have now warned that we need to take care of “some of the most vulnerable” in our society after the results found children were at a high risk of developing mental health issues due to the lockdown and the restrictions.

Prof Creswell said: "These findings highlight that there is wide variation in how children and young people have been affected, with some finding life easier but others experiencing more difficulties.

"Our findings have identified some sources of variation but we need to continue to gain a better understanding of which families are struggling and what they need to help direct the right advice and support going forward to ensure that this does not have long-lasting consequences."

But what can you do to help your child if they are struggling and what are the nine signs they may have a mental health issue?

1. Having suicidal or self-harm thoughts

Perhaps more of a direct clue, but if things get really bad, you might notice your child begins self-harming or cutting their skin.

You might not see the evidence of such action right away, but you might notice your child is covering up more or trying to hide their skin, which might be a sign of self-harming.

2. Eating less or binge eating

Any sudden change in your child's eating habits might signal a mental health problem.

Some might even have physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach aches, the NHS said.

Why is my child suffering mental illness?

Things that increase the risk of a mental illness such as anxiety or depression in children include:

  • family difficulties
  • bullying
  • physical, emotional or sexual abuse
  • a family history of depression or other mental health problems
  • Sometimes it is triggered by one difficult event, such as parents separating, a bereavement or problems with school or other children.
  • Often it's caused by a mixture of things. For example, your child may have inherited a tendency to depression and also have experienced some difficult life events.

3. Bad mood that won't go away

A child suffering mental health problems will begin to feel persistently down.

The research found that the biggest behavioural changes in children included them being increasingly agitated, moody or upset, with two-thirds displaying such signs.

Meanwhile, 42 per cent have been misbehaving more, while 38 per cent have bee crying more than usual, according to parents.

4. Low self esteem

If your child talks about feeling guilty or worthless, it might be a sign that they've lost their confidence, which could be linked to a mental illness.

The NHS describes it this as feeling "empty or unable to feel emotions" or "numb".

5. Tearful or emotional outbursts

Another key sign to look out for is anger and emotional outbursts.

These will be much bigger than the usual outburst a child might have when they are defying their parents.

6. Lack of concentration

As children are no longer attending lessons at school, it may be difficult for them to concentrate in a less regimented environment.

Most parents at home with their children are new to the concept of homeschooling and might not be able to spot when their child is struggling to concentrate if they have never observed them in an educational setting.

Some key signs to look out for is if your child is unable to make up their mind, or if they appear they don't care about something and the consequences their actions may have.

You're Not Alone

EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide

It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.

It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.

And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.

Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.

That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.

The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.

Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:

  • CALM,, 0800 585 858
  • Heads Together,
  • Mind,, 0300 123 3393
  • Papyrus,, 0800 068 41 41
  • Samaritans,, 116 123
  • Movember,

7. Lack of interest in fun things they used to love

Another sign is that they might lose interest in activities they used to enjoy.

For instance, if your child had a hobby and they have suddenly stopped doing it and don't want to replace it with another activity.

8. Trouble sleeping

Another really important sign to look for is if your child is having problems sleeping.

It might also be that they don't want to get out of bed, or sleep in for hours longer than usual.

9. Feeling tired all the time

If your child seems unable to relax or is more lethargic than usual, this could be a clue that something isn't quite right.

According to the NHS, being irritable or grumpy all the time may also be a tell-tale sign.

Commenting on the results of the Oxford Uni study, Tom Madders, campaigns director at the charity YoungMinds highlighted that children have found it increasingly hard to cope as the pandemic has gone on.

"This may be because of loneliness, fears about the coronavirus or a loss of the routines and support that come with school.

"The picture appears to be more variable for older children in this study.

"Following the anxiety and uncertainty of going into lockdown, some are likely to have found the restrictions more difficult as time as gone on, while others – including those who feel safe and secure at home but who find school challenging – may have adapted well to their new reality."

He added that young people may find it tough going back to school after a long break.

"It's vital that there's a re-adjustment period where wellbeing is prioritised.

"It's also important to recognise that some of the most vulnerable young people in our society – including those who have experienced abuse, violence or neglect – are often the hardest to identify.

"We need to ensure that effective support is available for all children who need it now and as restrictions lift."


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