A mum has told how her daughter became so frightened of germs during lockdown, she couldn’t move.
Prior to the pandemic, Karen, 14, had mild, manageable obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety – but her father Mike says the change in his daughter during the pandemic was “frightening”.
“In terms of the pandemic itself, I always tried to keep the message fairly calm as far as our kids were concerned,” says Mike.
“I told them that they were unlikely to become seriously ill, but that we all had a collective responsibility to be sensible, follow the rules and try to avoid spreading the virus to protect the elderly and more vulnerable.
“However, Karen struggled with not seeing friends, and became very fixated on germs and hygiene. When she went back to school in September 2020 it really escalated.
“She started coming home, going to her bedroom and self-harming.”
Have you been affected by this in any way? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike says that his daughter would avoid certain areas of the house if she’d seen a member of the family cough or sneeze in there.
“She’d walk into a room and then become paralysed by this sense that every part of every room felt germ-ridden and she couldn’t move, or even sit down to eat.
“To highlight the irrationality of it she’d somehow concluded that as dogs don’t get Covid-19 then the cleanest place to be was in the dog’s bed, so she’d often eat meals sitting in there with him.
“Clearly there was no logic or rationale to this but in her head it was 100% real and we were not just running out of ways to help her manage it but we were also frightened about what might happen next.”
Mike says Karen waited around six months, but is now seeing a counsellor via local youth mental health services. “It’s hard to tell what impact it’s having yet, but I would say she’s at least stabilised rather than continuing to deteriorate,” he adds.
The Daily Mirror is launching our new campaign HeadStrong: Better Mental Health For All.
We’re calling for:
- Early Access Mental Health Hubs for under 25s to be rolled out across the country, with at least one for each trust.
- Waiting times to be cut so people actually start treatment with a professional within four weeks
- The Govt to fill in the gaps in care – an end of red tape which means many don’t fit the set criteria to get help plus 8,500 more mental health staff
- Compulsory Mental Health education lessons in schools, plus paid counsellors in schools and care homes
Want to help? Write to your MP and ask them to support the current Early Day Motion 459 to debate mental health and the pandemic in parliament.
Karen is one of several children speaking to the Mirror about the impact of the pandemic on their mental health.
It’s thought some 1.5m more children will need help in the next three to five years because of the past 19 months – whether it be because the pandemic has triggered or exacerbated a mental health health issue.
The numbers of under 18s suffering from anxiety, low mood, depression, eating disorders and OCD have all rocketed since the first lockdown.
How to get help: If you are struggling or you are worried about a loved one, contact Samaritans on 116123. For more advice visit nhs.uk/mental-health or www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus