Mother and father group Shadow Pandemic Victoria is pushing to reopen colleges throughout COVID-19 lockdowns

A group of Victorian parents are calling on the state government to set up a task force to create a roadmap for reopening schools.

Important points:

  • Shadow Pandemic Victoria urges the government to clearly map the return of schools
  • Calls to adolescent psychiatric services have increased dramatically since the pandemic began
  • Prime Minister Daniel Andrews says discussions are ongoing about 12th grade students and upcoming exams

Schools in Melbourne have been closed since the lockdown began on August 5th, and schools in the Victoria area are also closed until at least September 2nd.

Jacquie Blackwell is a spokeswoman for Shadow Pandemic Victoria, which launched an online petition calling for action by the Victoria state government.

“We understand that the nature of the pandemic was that we had to try to control it, but at what cost? The mental health of our children, ”said Ms. Blackwell.

Shadow Pandemic Victoria is campaigning for a clear plan to reopen schools, with a special task force made up of pediatricians, child psychologists and educators to deliver a report.

Ms. Blackwell said Victorian parents were fed up with being left in the dark by health officials about their children.

“We don’t want the government to say, ‘Oh, we advise the people,'” she said.

“We want to know who you are advising and we want to know what you are talking about.”

Shadow Pandemic Victoria has called for schools to be the last facilities to close and the first to open, with school closings being decided on a case-by-case basis.

Since launching their Instagram page on Aug. 19, the group has garnered more than 4,000 followers and significant media attention.

The parent group held a COVID-safe protest on Sunday to appeal against the closure of playgrounds and schools.

Ms. Blackwell said the response from Victorian families has been overwhelming.

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“We are overwhelmed with the support we are getting,” she said.

“We’ve heard from parents who say, ‘My kids just don’t have the energy to study. They don’t have the will. They just want to be young again.'”

Ms. Blackwell said young people were overlooked during the lockdown.

“We talk about small businesses, we talk about so many stakeholders, but children have no voice,” she said.

“They were just thrown away. This is really what we do as a group of mothers. We say enough is enough.

“My daughter said to me, ‘I watch my friends fight and I don’t know how to help them.'”

Youth mental health stretched

Young people’s mental health is in the spotlight, with numbers from mental health services like the Kids Helpline showing a staggering increase in engagement.

Tracey Adams, executive director of yourtown charity, which runs Kids Helpline, said there was clear evidence that The lockdown affected the well-being of children and adolescents.

“[The] The demand for the children’s helpline is increasing nationwide by over 30 percent compared to the same period in times before COVID “, said Mrs. Adams.

“This is further evidenced by what we currently see as a result of the persistent nature of the lockdowns, with children and teenagers in Victoria reaching the Kids Helpline increasing by nearly 50 percent when we compare the data over the same time period.” Year.”

Weekly calls to the children’s helpline

August 16-22, 2019

August 16-22, 2021

Increase in calls

National

7,651

10,202

33%

New South Wales

2,408

3,298

37%

Victoria

2.016

2,963

47%

Australian capital territory

158

205

30%

Victoria’s continuous renewal of the locks also has lead to an 11 percent increase in calls to the hotline from the first to the second week of the current lockdown.

For Melbourne-based child psychologist Charlotte Keating, the developmental impact of lockdowns cannot be underestimated.

“The long-term lack of normal everyday routines due to the pandemic is having a profound impact on our young people,” said Keating.

She said young Victorians in lockdown were lacking many milestones as well as everyday school activities that fostered healthy brain development and a sense of autonomy and achievement.

Dr. Keating said A 2020 peer-reviewed study by the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry showed a strong association between long periods of isolation during the COVID-19 lockdown and mental health issues in children and adolescents.

If you or someone you know needs help:

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  • Dolly’s Dream support hotline: 0488 881 033

  • eheadspace Australia: 1800 650 890

“Peer-reviewed studies from previous experiences with circumstances similar to the lockdown show that the longer the lockdown, the greater the likelihood of long-term mental illnesses like depression and anxiety,” she said.

“It is the duration as opposed to the intensity of the experience in lockdown that correlates with potential longer-term mental health problems.

“Young people’s mental health is at a point where it is so important. There are many waiting lists for counselors and psychologists. The system is definitely very congested.”

Dr. Keating said creating a sense of regularity could be key to helping young people cope with this.

“Dealing with overwhelming emotions can be difficult, especially for children and teenagers who are particularly sensitive to stress because of their brain development,” she said.

“If you stick to your daily routines, you can give back some of that assurance – be it your sleep routine, your exercise routine, or the social connections you can have at predictable times during the week.”

The struggle to reopen schools

Outbreaks in several Victorian schools and mounting concerns about the Delta strain’s portability of COVID-19 in children have fueled the government’s stance on closings.

Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said in his press secretary on Tuesday that getting 12th grade students through their exams was “obviously high on the list”.

He was only hinting at upcoming announcements, however, stating that discussions about the 12th grade exams and student vaccination would not begin until Monday evening.

Earlier this month, Mr Andrews responded to parents’ criticism of closing playgrounds and public spaces to children.

“Any feeling that children don’t understand and don’t spread it is just wrong,” he said.

“I’ve had feedback from a lot of parents who tell me how difficult it is. I understand that, I understand that.

“The best we can all do is stick together, find a way to get through the next few weeks, and hopefully cut those numbers down enough to get kids back to playgrounds and kids back to school.”

But Shadow Pandemic Victoria’s Jacquie Blackwell feared the damage to Victoria’s youth could already be done.

“As a parent, I am really concerned that there will be children who will separate themselves from the whole educational process,” said Ms. Blackwell.

“They become forgotten children. As a society, I find that terrible.”

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