Jake, which is not his real name, has seen his mental health “nosedive” amid the isolation of being stuck at home with only his parents and his one-year-old sister.
“He seems so angry and sad so much of the time,” Jake’s mother Charlotte, also a pseudonym.
“It’s not so much the intensity of the incidents – though they are awful – but the frequency.
“Multiple times per day we have full-on meltdowns over nothing.
“Screaming at us, shouting at us, throwing things and pushing over furniture, punching things and, recently, punching us.
“The end feels so far away and my son’s mental health is really suffering. I worry constantly about the long-term effects.”
Charlotte said the pandemic has also made Jake “terrified” of going near other people, recently even refusing to touch his grandmother despite the family forming a support bubble with her.
“We isolated for weeks and explained to him that it would be OK for them to have contact from now on, but despite this he still refuses to go near her,” said Charlotte.
“He won’t touch her or hug her and is extremely anxious that by doing so he’ll catch Covid or pass it on.”
The mother’s comments come ahead of Children’s Mental Health Week, and as research from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) and the Prince’s Trust finds the number of young people with a probable mental illness rose from one in nine in 2017 to one in six during the pandemic.
“I know we are not alone,” said Charlotte. “I see friends and other mothers online talking about their children’s strange new behaviours.
“Previously happy and calm children swearing, throwing things, developing tics, not sleeping, being angry, emotional, defiant.
“I don’t know what the solution is, but it does worry me a lot.”
According to his mother, Jake dealt well with the first month of the UK’s lockdown last year, and Charlotte commended his small village school, which provided him with “excellent” learning materials.
“But despite this, things took a nosedive… it was awful. He would just cry and shout at me, bored and lonely and sad,” she said.
“It’s so unnatural for him to not have playmates… it absolutely breaks my heart.”
When schools reopened Charlotte said Jake’s behaviour and emotional state improved and he was “absolutely delighted” to be with his friends – but the situation regressed when schools shut again.
Charlotte herself had been having cognitive behavioural therapy following the birth of Jake’s sister, as she previously suffered from post-natal depression.
She is now taking antidepressants, which have helped, but the situation with Jake continues to make things difficult.
“My nerves are shot from his constant rages and trying to do the right thing to make him feel calm and happy – something I seem completely unable to do,” she said.
“Often, I feel incredibly claustrophobic. There’s nowhere else to go, I just have to keep trudging on, with no chance of any reprieve.”
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