Closing Playgrounds during Covid Has Fuelled “Pandemic of Mental Health Problems” among Children, according to Parliamentary Committee

Of all the negative impacts of lockdowns, one of the most profound has surely been the stunting of children’s educational and social development, and the suffering among the young of “vicious cycles of increasing distress“. One of the causes of “a pandemic of mental health problems” among children was the closure of playgrounds in the first lockdown, according to a parliamentary committee. The Telegraph has the story.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood is calling for practical measures to help children recover from repeated lockdowns, which have left too many confined for long periods at home. 

Their report calls for the halting and reversal of closures of children’s playgrounds – saying it is now more important than ever to encourage more outdoor play.

Its authors said the decision to close off playgrounds during the first lockdown followed longer-term trends which have seen too many play areas sold off in recent years. 

MPs said children growing up in the shadow of Covid needed far more help to recover from the pandemic, warning that one in six children are likely to be suffering from mental health problems – up from one in nine three years ago…

The report warns that spending on play facilities has fallen by 44% since 2017/18, with 347 playgrounds closed since 2014. It also calls for “outdoor play” to be put on the National Curriculum, warning that the lack of free play, and the amount of time spent glued to screens, is fuelling a rise in children’s mental health disorders.  

Experts said the closures of children’s playgrounds and play facilities across the country during the first lockdown had exacerbated such problems, adding to frustration and anxiety. 

And they said that many children had also suffered fallout from their parents’ stresses during the pandemic, with many exposed to heavier drinking at home.

Responding to these findings, the children and parents’ campaign group UsForThem said policies should be optimised to support the health and well-being of children. The closing of playgrounds, it said, is “unnecessary, unscientific and damaging to children”.

Lea Milligan, the Chief Executive of MQ Mental Health Research, is quoted in the Telegraph report saying that the problem of poor mental health among children has become an “emergency”.

The most vulnerable in our society are the ones who will be carrying the heaviest burden post-pandemic. The increase in mental illness in the UK was already an alarming trend before Covid struck. Now it is an emergency.

Without action, many of our children could face a lifetime of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses.

Worth reading in full.

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