Lydia Briggs, Research and Implementation Assistant with CAER and Psychology student at the University of Leeds, looks at how we can address the impact of Covid-19 on happiness and wellbeing.

20th March 2021 is International Day of Happiness. The recognition of this day as a reminder of the importance of happiness was established by the United Nations in 2013 [1]. Happiness and wellbeing are identified as universal aspirations in our lives on this planet. However, the recent global impacts of COVID-19 have seen this goal draw further from the reach of many people.

Born in Bradford have been looking at these effects of COVID-19 on the mental health and wellbeing of children and their parents. Within CAER (Centre for Applied Education Research), a COVID-19 school survey was conducted during the first national UK lockdown. This highlighted schools’ concerns for their pupils’ (and families’) social and emotional mental health (SEMH) [2]. Additionally, a qualitative study identified children and parents to both have a moderate, and even sometimes high level of health anxiety, and children often needed a lot of reassurance from their parents [3]. However, many parents have found it difficult to offer this support due to feeling worried themselves.

Senior leaders within schools have been working on producing plans to address these issues and support those pupils in need [2]. Also, projects have been established in response to these identified issues, such as Exceed Institute’s Positive Parental Engagement project which aims to strengthen school children’s SEMH across Bradford [4]. This project aspires to enhance schools’ confidence in their ability to support parents in encouraging their children’s re-attendance to school. Through supporting pupils’ learning and mental wellbeing, parental confidence is hoped to improve, therefore, helping them to understand and respond to their children’s potential SEMH problems.

We must remember that fear and worry are natural responses to threats or when we are in a position of uncertainty about what might happen [5]. Feeling fearful around the COVID-19 pandemic is a normal emotion to be experiencing, particularly due to the many significant changes and restrictions that have been posed on our everyday lives. It is just as important for us to attend to our mental health needs, as it is to look after our physical health.

Last March, in response to the pandemic, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation reminded us to “all look out for each other because we need each other” [6]. It is important to talk with others, especially children, to allow space to share feelings and concerns. The Born in Bradford qualitative report recommends to use resources directly aimed at young people to help them understand the virus and current rules [3].

Almost a year into the pandemic, and circumstances still feel alien and confusing, and the uncertainty of when things might improve continues to loom over us. Because of this, at times, happiness may seem like an unattainable goal. But this International Day of Happiness, rather than feeling the pressure of how you think you should feel, we should remember that it is okay to not feel okay, and we are all in this together.

Resources

Information for Children:

Talking with Children about COVID-19:

Resources for Parents:

Supporting your Children:

Advice for Teenagers:

For your Happiness and Wellbeing at Home:

References

[1] https://www.un.org/en/observances/happiness-day

 

[2] https://caer.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/CAERschoolsurveyCovid.pdf

 

[3] https://www.bradfordresearch.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/CSAGChildrens-Mental-Wellbeing-Report-11th-November-2020.pdf

 

[4] https://www.exceedacademiestrust.co.uk/parentalengagement/

 

[5] https://www.who.int/teams/mental-health-and-substance-use/covid-19

 

[6] https://worldhappiness.report/faq/

 

About the author

Originally from Loughborough, I am an undergraduate Psychology student at the University of Leeds. Currently, I am on my placement year as a Research and Implementation Assistant with CAER. I am particularly interested in the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people and how evidence-based research may be used to improve this. Hence, I chose to do a placement at Born in Bradford to learn more about the ongoing research in this area, and to contribute towards this myself.