The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the mental health of children and adolescents –

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more people are reporting great psychological distress. Young people in particular suffer: between 2017 and 2020/21 the percentage of people affected has more than doubled, says a report from the Swiss Health Observatory.

The admissions of children and adolescents to psychiatric clinics have been steadily increasing since 2012, indicates the Swiss Health Observatory (Obsan) in its mental health report released Thursday.

But since September of the first year of coronavirus, in 2020, the curve has risen. Girls and young women suffering from depression were the main victims. Hospitalizations following suicide attempts have also increased significantly since 2017, again mainly among girls and young women. No such changes were seen in people aged 19 and over.

Graph representing the rate of psychological distress by age group, comparison established between 2017 and 2020-2021 in Switzerland. [Office fédérale de la statistique ]

Increase in calls to emergency lines

Police statistics show no increase in suicide attempts in the first year of the pandemic. Due to the increase in consultation calls to hotlines such as Pro Juventute, Obsan believes the number of unrecorded cases is high. We will have to wait for the suicide figures for 2020 to find out more.

>> Also read: Necessary to create a national register of suicide attempts among adolescents

In 2020, for the entire population, the main diagnoses in hospital psychiatry were mood disorders (32.8%), psychoactive substance abuse (20%, especially alcohol) and schizophrenia or delusional disorders (16.6%) ).

Women and depression, men and alcohol

The disorders are related to gender: 37.7% of women suffered from depression. Among men, substance abuse – especially alcohol – and mood disorders were the most common, with 27.7 percent.

A total of 57,000 people were treated in a psychiatric clinic in 2020, which represents a hospitalization rate of 6.6 people per 1,000 population. The rate is 7.5 people in adults and 2.8 in children and adolescents under the age of 19. In this group the increase is 6% compared to the previous year.

Half a million patients

Overall, around 520,000 patients were treated in an outpatient psychiatric and psychotherapeutic practice in the year under review, which corresponds to 59 insured out of 1,000. By age, 32 out of 1,000 adolescents under 19 were in treatment, in addition to 66 of 1,000 adults.

These figures are lower than in 2019, but between 2012 and 2019/2020 the rate of people treated increased by 26%. Among children under 19 the increase was 40% and among adults 25%.

In 2020, the costs of compulsory health insurance in the field of psychiatry reached 2.2 billion francs, or 6.4% of the 34.1 billion francs in costs charged to basic insurance. Since 2006, this share has been relatively constant.

>> To consult: The most prescribed drugs in Switzerland are psychotropics

The weakest are most often affected

In 2020, more than three-quarters (77.2%) of respondents to the annual Survey of Income and Living Condition (SILC) said they had been happy most of the time in the past four weeks.

However, these data are insufficient to measure the effects of the pandemic, writes the Obsan. Some studies, however, suggest that the pandemic has exacerbated social and health inequalities. Thus, deterioration of mental health has been observed in some disadvantaged groups, such as people with low incomes and low levels of education or people with pre-existing (mental) illnesses.

Reactions of associations

An increase also felt by some associations, such as the Main Tendue. “We have seen an increase in phone calls, from 7 to 12% in 2020,” explains its director Yaël Liebkind. “We also noticed a drop in age. Often it was young people who witnessed their situation of isolation experienced with Covid-19. A discomfort linked to the fear of an uncertain future, the impression of being cut off in its development is in his social life. But also calls related to family conflicts or romantic relationships “.

The same observation within the Ciao association, where the number of requests related to suicidal thoughts doubled between 2020 and 2021. “These are weaknesses already present, accelerated by the pandemic. The increase is worrying, but from a side Covid-19 has also freed the issue of mental health. Without acting, the fact of expressing oneself on one’s dark thoughts can be a safety net. Because expressing oneself allows a better cure “, explains its director Marjory Winkler.

Anne Lévy, Director of the FOPH, underlines in the Obsan report “that it is essential that the institutions, the cantons and the Confederation work side by side to implement the necessary measures to strengthen prevention and ensure the care of children and adolescents. This is the only way to avoid long-term negative consequences. “

In the event of psychological or psychiatric distress, various associations listen and provide free and anonymous consultations. For more information, check out sites like Outstretched hand, Juve tests Where stop suicide.

>> Details of psychiatrist Anne Edan at 7:30 pm:

Precarious mental health among young people: interview with Anne Edan, child psychiatrist and head of the HUG crisis unit [RTS]

Precarious mental health among young people: interview with Anne Edan, child psychiatrist and head of the crisis unit at HUG / 19:30 / 2 min. / Thursday at 19:30

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