The lock down measures, initiated as a response to the Covid19 virus, are harming children, according to new reports published by the UK governmental watchdog Ofsted.
A report published in December 2020, found that repeated periods of isolation have impacted children and their education. Most children returned to school in September after a national lock down that saw schooling move to home schooling. Now teachers have had time to assess pupils. Many children are reportedly at least 6 months behind where they should be.
The Ofsted inspectors found that where isolation was required because of positive Covid19 cases in staff or pupils, schools were often able to provide adequate education for students by isolating together in ‘bubbles,’ but individual children isolating were more likely to fall behind their classmates still in school because of the different work set. Some of the home schooling may not have adhered to the National Curriculum
For the children in care, lock down has a markedly more detrimental effect. Any children arriving at the homes were put into isolation for 14 days.
“In effect, this created a form of solitary confinement—and we learned that this removal from contact had resulted in greater anxiety, an increase in self-harm and, in some cases, physical attacks on staff,” HM chief inspector Amanda Spielman said in her report.
Ofsted have carried out almost 2,000 visits to both schools and social care providers over the past three months. The final reports reflect on the experiences of those working in schools, further education, and the wider social services bodies.
Spielman has praised the work of teachers and social services staff in these difficult and trying times.
“Faced with all of these pressures, the education and social care sectors are showing considerable resilience and creativity to provide children and learners with the best experience they can. … And all of this is being done against the most challenging backdrop for staff in recent times.”
But suicide is obviously not just confined to school students, the male suicide rate has been described as a “silent epidemic”. Despite the high incidence of men’s mortality, it is the lack of public awareness that makes this epidemic so worrying.
In the UK, it is the highest cause of death among men under the age 45. In fact the highest suicide rate in the UK is recorded for men aged 40–44.
Male rates are higher than female suicide rates, and one reason for this is that men are less likely to ask for help or express depressive or suicidal feelings
Male suicidal behaviours can often be linked to a number external factors, such as an illness, a business failure and/or a forced retirement, thus suicide-prevention plans often fail to address individual internal or psychological factors such as feelings, personal shortcomings, or relationship issues.
Recently, there has been notably more suicide among men corresponding to the successive lock downs in the UK. The suicide rate for men in England and Wales is at its highest rate for two decades.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found there were 5,691 suicides registered in 2019 and that men accounted for around 75% of them. The male suicide rate of 16.9 deaths per 100,000 is the highest it has been since 2000.
The ONS said it is unclear what impact coronavirus lock down has had on suicide rates in 2020 due to delays to inquests. Figures show that last year, men aged between 45 to 49 were the worst affected, rates are also increasing among young women. A break down by region showed the suicide rate was highest in Yorkshire and the Humber for both men and women.
Responding to the latest figures, The Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland said middle-aged men being most at risk ‘is a worrying trend that has persisted for decades’. Why has it taken a pandemic to notice this?
Ms Sutherland warned: ‘Undoubtedly, the pandemic has affected everyone in society, but Samaritans is particularly worried about three groups: people with pre-existing mental health conditions, young people who self-harm, and less well-off middle-aged men.’
Telling men to get help doesn’t take us very far in dealing with male suicide. It is only by breaking the silence of male suicide that we can build public awareness and implement preventive strategies that the we can address this very real epidemic.
Much of the decline in mental health over the past nine months can reasonably be attributed to the pandemic lockdowns rather than Covid19 itself.
Consider that for the previously mentioned mortality, the actual fatality of Covid19 is close to zero. It’s the closing of their schools, closures of their offices, and isolation from family, friends, and community that has affected them so drastically. It is now illegal to see members of your own family who do not live with you
There is ample research to show how stripping people of their agency and leaving them feeling powerless contributes to mental health decline.
“Having a high sense of control is related to proactive behavior and positive psychological outcomes,” health researchers have pointed out
“Control is linked to an ability to take preventative action and to feel healthy. An impairment of control is associated with depression, stress, and anxiety-related disorders.”
Drastic government lockdowns seizing control of the minutiae of everyday life were always going to have severe consequences. Unintended consequences perhaps, but the effects are felt none the less.
“Every human action has both intended and unintended consequences,” Antony Davies and James Harrigan explained in ‘Lessons in Unintended consequences https://fee.org/articles/the-cobra-effect-lessons-in-unintended-consequences/
Replacing individual decision-making of peoples’ everyday lives with centralized government dictats intended to slow the spread of Covid19 inevitably causes enormous ripple effects.
Our analysis of lock down policies must be weighed against the loss of life and human suffering they caused in their own right.
Is the ‘cure’ too high a price to pay for combating what is effectively, a not terribly lethal disease? At the time of writing Matt Hancock is preparing for yet another press statement, possibly announcing further restrictive measures. The phrase ‘Total Lockdown’ with penalties escalating to as much as £6400 for repeat offenders.
And suicide is never mentioned.