Children and adolescents without support in the Covid era: mental disorders exploded. The first step: the psychologist in schools. “You become structural”

Children and adolescents without support in the Covid era: mental disorders exploded. The first step: the psychologist in schools. “You become structural”
Children and adolescents without support in the Covid era: mental disorders exploded. The first step: the psychologist in schools. “You become structural”

Nobody saves himself alone. Least of all a child who is growing up or a teenager who is building his identity. A sufficient awareness to claim in a society the existence of an intervention network capable of responding to the need for psychological help of the younger generations. Which perhaps most of all have suffered from normality stolen from Covid. But, denounces the president of the National Council of the Order of Psychologists (CNOP), David Lazzari: “Local services are lacking. Just think that out of 110 thousand psychologists, just five thousand are employed in the public, with long waiting lists ”. It is not true, however, that nothing is being done to help children in difficulty due to the closure of schools and the lack of social relations. A step forward was taken with the introduction of the psychologist in schools thanks to the agreement between the Cnop and the Ministry of Education signed at the end of October. “To date 70 percent of educational institutions have enrolled a psychologist – Lazzari declares -. The few hours banned, about 12 per month per institution, are a problem ”. The service is now guaranteed until June. Initially funded with 40 million euros. The Sostegni decree has allocated some others 150, however, destined only in part for psychological support (they will also be used for medical-health services and the purchase of protective devices and material for students with disabilities). “We acted in an emergency, now it is essential to structure the service, to make it an integral part of the school system”, says the president of Cnop. The future of the initiative is still unknown, the ministry will discuss it in the coming months. The aim of the project is to provide psychological support to students and teachers for the discomforts deriving from the health emergency and, more generally, to prevent psychophysical malaise and support in cases of work stress, relational difficulties and psychological traumas, which have become unhappy with the pandemic. The decision of the French government to offer ten free sessions by the psychologist to children (from 3 years old) and young people (up to 17 years old) depressed due to Covid should also be an example for Italy.

“France already has psychologists in schools and now it gives the possibility of start a psychotherapy course real. It should also be done by us, we could give an important chance to families gripped by the crisis, the cost of a psychotherapist is not accessible to everyone ”: this is Lazzari’s appeal on behalf of the entire Italian community of psychologists. To which is added the warning of Laura Parolin, president of the association of psychologists of Lombardy: “We need to prepare for the post-pandemic. People do not always express discomfort during the traumatic event, it can explode even after. All the more reason there is a need to develop a welfare of proximity, consisting of the stable presence of psychologists in schools, counseling centers with enhanced staff and mental health centers adequate to respond to requests. Investing in the future of the new generations means investing in the prevention of discomfort and in early interventions. The person who is ill does not have the same opportunities for growth and success ”.

The Kids Are not Alright. To the pediatric first aid of the Umberto I polyclinic in Rome, admissions for self-harm and attempted suicide “from January to March of this year almost tripled compared to the same period in 2020, going from 18 to 50” ilfattoquotidiano.it the director Fabio Midulla. “Compliance with hygiene rules, the use of masks and physical distancing have caused cases of respiratory and gastrointestinal infectious diseases to collapse, children have become ill less, but mental disorders have exploded. They come to the hospital with anxiety, panic attacks, depressive states, for example they simulate the presence of imaginary symptoms, pains in the legs or back that do not make them move. The extreme case is stuff yourself with tachipirina tablets to get it over with“. If we move to Milan, to the pediatric emergency room of theMaggiore hospital, the situation is the same. “In general, in the last year, accesses have decreased by 50 percent, we have practically not seen a case of flu, but since September there has been a frightening increase in children who have presented themselves with anxiety, eating disorders, hysterics. Even alcohol abuse, despite the curfew and the closure of the premises, has not reduced ”, he says Giuseppe Bertolozzi, in charge of the Intensive Brief Observation. “The emergency room is the extreme solution. We must not wait for the children to end up in the hospital to be treated, we must first intercept the frailty and encourage taking charge in the area through the implementation of counseling centers and mental health services ”, urges Parolin.

In schools we do what we can to lend a hand to these children. Giusi Giannone won the competition in December and has listened to the fears of the students of three schools since January Palermo. Carries out online and face-to-face interviews. “Once a week up to four for each – he says -. If they are not enough and they need psychotherapy, I have to send them to local services. But they are almost absent and many families cannot pay for private sessions. It turns out then that those who really need are forgotten. I didn’t feel like abandoning some kids who were sick and I received them for free in my studio. We need to heal this institutional void “. Discomfort is not fresh water: if neglected it gets worse and it will be increasingly difficult to get out. Both children and adults, Giannone reports, “suffer from a collapse in teaching performance and difficulty in concentrating. The transition from dad to face-to-face lessons provoked aggressive reactions, from those who remain silent due to the lack of trust in the teacher to those who show impatience for everything. In high school students there is anxiety about planning the future, some have even questioned the school they attend, considered too demanding, and would like to move to a less difficult one “. And then there are conflicts that come back to the surface. “The forced coexistence and the prolonged sharing of time and space, has reactivated dysfunctional dynamics between parents and between parents and children, reviving previous ailments, such as anorexia, an escape from quarrels to attract the attention of the family”. In Pescara Maria Paola Ciarelli works in four institutes. “From kindergarten to middle school, I mostly meet parents, who need support in looking after their children – he says -. They often do double jobs to get by, entrust younger siblings to older ones, and lose sight of moods. I help teachers manage the class group and do activities to promote healthy relationships between peers and to prevent anger. Investing in emotional education today, not neglecting discomfort, is essential to remove tomorrow the risk of more serious discomfort, hikikomori syndrome, bullying and cyberbullying. There is so much to do – closes the psychologist -. A full-time psychologist would be needed, in the morning and in the afternoon, inserted in the organic plant of the institute, in order to normalize this service. Listening and psychological support must be part of the educational process “. It would be a huge civilization milestone. The president of the Italian society of pediatric psychology (Sipped), Giovanna Perricone, explains it well: “The psychologist is not only used to overcome the discomfort and cannot be confined to a counter. They must be able to interact with the class group to promote interpersonal, adaptation and problem solving skills. A stronger child will be a safer and more responsible adult, able to face the critical moments and challenges of life without hurting themselves or hurting themselves ”.

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