Ignored and Vulnerable: How Children are Silently Suffering in the Pandemic

Children have been a vulnerable but neglected group in terms of mental health issues during the last two waves of COVID-19. How has it taken a toll and with another wave on the horizon, what can parents do to help?

Picture Credit: Chessana Malik for CRY’S Click Rights Initiative

Witnessing his 86-year-old grandmother slip into a coma last year was the toughest moment for 17-year-old Anwesh. There was panic and anxiety due to fears of a possible covid infection. The surge kept his family on toes.

He told CRY, “There were times when even the elders would breakdown.”

A similar story is that of sixteen-year-old Manas who felt like a part of him was taken away when his grandfather was taken to the hospital. He hated getting updates via his mother and depended on video calls to talk to him directly. He missed him.

These are stories of two of the many children who have had a hard time over the last two COVID-19 waves in India. Anupama Muhuri, General Manager — Volunteer Action at CRY said, “Children are making heart-breaking choices every day.”

She said, “Things which their childhood deserves have completely gone for a toss. There might be disdain for not meeting their grandparents, or pain of seeing their parents lose jobs, or the constant fear that they might lose someone.”

Credit: Anwesh Dash for CRY’S Click Rights Initiative

She said that when people talk of COVID, they see things in an adult way — number of deaths, hospitalizations and so on. But people often miss that children are going through and seeing this extent of grief and loss that the pandemic has brought upon for the first time too.

“But, they don’t have the words like adults to express themselves,” said Trina Chakrabarti, Director (East) & Volunteer Action at CRY.

The organisation has come up with Click Rights Initiative which aims to provide an avenue for children to express themselves, in their own way, by capturing their experiences with a camera.

Trina said that the entire child rights fraternity is trying to understand what is going on with children but they are all speaking on their behalf. With this initiative, CRY wanted to look at what children are saying directly. “It’s not on behalf of, but exactly what children are going through.”

With another wave predicted in October, Anupama’s message to parents is to pay attention to children: “Think of how best we can try to give the experience of feeling cared for and safe because this is a time they will remember for a long time. Even if you don’t have all the answers, sit and spend time with them. They will remember how you responded as an adult.”

Trina said, “If a child is missing school, that will someday regularise. But the kind of emotions that a child is experiencing in these times, that will have a lifelong impact, especially if they have no avenues to express those emotions.”

Multimedia journalist interested in politics, health, and environment