The Malta Independent 24 September 2021, Friday

TMID Editorial: Covid-19 - Mental health

Tuesday, 7 September 2021, 08:40 Last update: about 17 days ago

The Covid-19 pandemic is taking its toll on society. Youths are one of the groups that have been heavily impacted by the restrictions. From being unable to socialise during parts of the pandemic, to restrictions at schools and university… youths have felt the effects.

According to the President of the Maltese Association of Psychiatry (MAP), Nigel Camilleri, children and adolescents are exhibiting an increase in externalising behaviours at home with family members following the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.


While the public health authorities and government have done everything to care for people’s physical health, the mental health of the nation needs to be thoroughly considered and looked into following the impact of the pandemic, Camilleri said.

It has not been a smooth or easy ride, and the mental health impacts are certainly being felt. The pandemic has not yet passed, but one hopes that we can continue along the road of easing restrictions, while of course ensuring that the number of covid cases remains stable or reduces, and that the health of society comes first.

The pandemic has been a stress factor across all ages, thus leading to a surge in a range of mental illnesses from anxiety, depression through to psychosis, he said. “The pandemic has also led to a significant surge in the number of referrals made. When looking at the registered statistics within services for children and young people, one can note that both within the state and private sector, referrals have not stopped,” Camilleri added.

Seeking help when suffering from mental health issues is imperative. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. If your children need some support, give them that support. Don’t let stigma get in the way.

Sports and socialising play a very important part in our development, and school plays a very important part in providing such activities. Given the situation, identifying mental health issues early in our young has never been quite so important.

A Mental Health and High School Curriculum Guide, which will be implemented in Church schools from this coming September, seeks to increase knowledge amongst teachers on mental health, reduce stigma and increase help-seeking attitudes.

Speaking with The Malta Independent on Sunday, Higher Specialist Trainee in Psychiatry Emma Saliba said that the aim is to minimise the number of students that go on to develop a mental disorder.  The guide, which has been used in other countries for years, is specifically aimed for students aged 13 to 15 years. It seeks to help improve mental health literacy. The guide is expected to be implemented in PSCD lessons.

Teachers would not be expected to diagnose mental disorders but it would serve as a support for teachers to be able to identify a student who would benefit from an assessment made by a doctor or a psychologist. The aim is to help support teachers and provide them with more knowledge on mental health. Simultaneously, students would also learn about their own mental health. The syllabus itself is divided into six modules. These include stigma about mental illness, understanding brain function, information about mental disorders, lived experiences of people with mental illness, seeking help and finding support and positive mental health.

Educating people about mental health must be a priority now. We do not yet know what kind of long-term impact the pandemic will have on our society mentally. We must start working on tackling those problems.

If we do not tackle this properly now, we could have serious consequences down the line.


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