As South Africa nears the one-year anniversary of the first hard lockdown due to COVID-19, the effects that the pandemic has had on children’s mental health and wellbeing is becoming increasingly clear.
COVID-19 has bought new levels of collective trauma to our children. Lockdown, school closures, isolation, family members becoming sick or even losing their lives, job losses and increased poverty and hunger have all led to children experiencing new levels of fear and uncertainty on a daily basis.
Recent findings by UNICEF stated that “…progress has gone backward across virtually every key measure of childhood”, and that “…children will bear the scars of the pandemic for years to come.”
Domestically the pandemic also led to even higher rates of child abuse, with the organisation Childline reporting a 36.8% increase in calls relating to child abuse in 2020 in comparison with 2019.
South African children are currently in a state of crisis, facing compounded challenges and hardships bought about by COVID-19.
The negative effects of the pandemic have been added to the poverty, physical and sexual abuse that many South African children already faced before COVID-19. The Optimus Study, which looked at prevalence rates of physical, sexual and psychological abuse in South African children, found that:
- 1 in 5 young people experience some form of sexual abuse
- 1 in 3 young people experience physical abuse from an adult caregiver
- 16% of young people experience emotional abuse
- One-fifth of young people experience some form of neglect
Experiencing trauma, especially during childhood, leads to an increased risk of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide. Currently, it is estimated that up to six million South Africans could be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
While those who experience extreme trauma would always benefit from receiving treatment from a registered mental health professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, South Africa currently has a serious shortage of these professionals meaning that they are unable to assist everyone who needs support.
This is why H.E.L.P – Four Stages for Supporting Traumatised Children was developed.
This programme is not meant to replace or replicate psychological mental health treatment. Rather, it is a training programme aimed at educating parents, teachers, caregivers or anyone working with children so that they are better able to support and empower children experiencing trauma.
The programme covers topics such as:
- Definitions and causes of trauma
- Symptoms of trauma in children of various ages
- A four-step approach to supporting and empowering traumatised children
- Coping skills for traumatised children
HealingLeaves is excited to launch the H.E.L.P programme on Human Rights Day, as we believe that this programme has the potential to better support and empower South African children and help them realise their rights to dignity, health and wellbeing.
Individuals or organisations interested in the H.E.L.P programme can contact HealingLeaves to register for training, which can be delivered either online or in-person.