DR MAX PEMBERTON: Children MUST go without masks for their mental health

Anxiety. It’s the word of the year for this year’s kids, according to research by Oxford University Press. No laughter, no recreation, no adventure. Anxiety.

Let’s take a moment to understand this. Childhood should be a time of wonder and excitement. It should be a time of carefree joy and happiness. It is a time to explore and learn.

Instead, our children have been instilled with a sense of horror and fear, worry and worry so deep that the word they choose to define an entire year of their precious young life is “anxiety.” .

What a terrible indictment of Project Fear. Scientists and advisers, with their wobbly projections and heavy-handed approach to restrictions, have left a nation trembling with fear over death rates that never materialized and hospitals that have not been overwhelmed.

Children should go mask-free to school to improve their mental health, says Dr Max Pemberton (file photo)

All the while, those who were least at risk – the children – faced appalling and detrimental disruptions to their lives with no discernible benefit.

How can those who run Project Fear sleep at night knowing that’s what they did to the younger generation?

Their playgrounds were closed, they were forbidden to see their friends. Their schools have closed down.

When schools finally returned, classes were virtual so they were stuck staring at a screen for hours, day after day, to learn. That’s if they connected at all.

Even now that they are physically back in class, they must muzzle themselves with masks in the hallways.

I am especially furious with the teachers unions who should be ashamed of themselves and how they have played politics with this national crisis.

Rather than focusing on what is best for children, calling for calm and trying to find ways to ensure children can be supported and continue to learn, they have weaponized the debate every turning. I was horrified by the way they hampered attempts to bring children back to class – the effects this alone has had on their education and development will linger far into the future.

This has exacerbated existing inequalities between children, as those from wealthier families will have had at least some elements of home schooling, while reports suggest some of the poorest have been left for months with nothing at all.

The gap between the rich and the poor has widened and is jeopardizing all the social advances made over the past fifty years. And now that children no longer have to wear masks in class, some teachers are refusing to follow government guidelines.

About 100 school leaders wrote to parents last week warning that children should continue to wear face coverings in classrooms, although there is very little evidence that masks do any good and a mountain of evidence to suggest how important it is for children’s development to be able to see a face and communicate clearly.

In his latest column, NHS psychiatrist Dr Max Pemberton examines mask-wearing in schools, citing that although the virus has killed people, the lockdown has had a hugely negative impact and children are suffering the most

In his latest column, NHS psychiatrist Dr Max Pemberton examines mask-wearing in schools, citing that although the virus has killed people, the lockdown has had a hugely negative impact and children are suffering the most

In fact, I’m so committed to this issue that I think parents should be able to insist that their children don’t wear masks in class.

I am amazed that we have all been so docile in this regard. What is particularly infuriating is that I, along with others – including many doctors and medical professionals – who have questioned the meaning of a nationwide lockdown and the restrictions that were being placed on our lives , were pilloried. I raised concerns about the effect our response to the virus was having on children’s lives, but was accused of being callous, indifferent, cruel and wanting people to die.

People said I was reckless, ignorant and unprofessional for simply pointing out that the restrictions were not without their own costs and that children, who are least exposed to the virus, would suffer the most.

While there is no doubt that the virus has killed people and its effects have been devastating, the lockdown has also had a huge negative impact. Referrals to mental health services have skyrocketed, especially for children.

An analysis of data carried out by the Royal College of Psychiatrists last autumn found that in just three months almost 200,000 young people had been referred to mental health services, nearly double pre-pandemic levels.

Children have become the conduit for all our fear and anxiety. They absorbed our worries and concerns, and God knows what that will do to their long-term sanity.

Children were not only deprived of the stability of school, but many found themselves in damaging environments – unstimulated at best; at worst, witnessing violence, drug use and abuse.

Just last week, an investigation was launched to find 100,000 missing students. These young people have been dubbed ‘ghost children’ because they failed to re-enroll in school and apparently disappeared. That’s 100,000 young people that no one can find!

My heart aches to think of what happened to some of these children. I suspect that in the years to come we will look back on our response to Covid and bow our heads in shame at how we have disrupted the lives of our children.

Stacey is right to nag

Dr Max says Stacey Dooley's latest BBC documentary on bullying is a

Dr Max says Stacey Dooley’s latest BBC documentary on bullying is ‘frightening viewing’, especially when it comes to the mental toll on the victims presented

Have you seen Stacey Dooley’s latest BBC documentary on bullying? It makes for scary viewing, especially when it comes to the mental cost to victims.

It is shocking to think that too often the police refuse to act on concerns until “something actually happens”.

They aren’t interested until the abuser has broken the law, such as breaking into someone’s house – and even then it’s easy to lump it in with other crimes and not not seeing it for what it is – a symptom of a pathologically intense focus on an individual.

Don’t get me wrong, real bullying is terrifying. It’s not just the fact that it could escalate into something tragic. It’s the emotional toll it takes on the victims. I was harassed by a former patient.

Stacey Dooley's latest BBC documentary on bullying, pictured.  Dr Max says make no mistake, real bullying really is

Stacey Dooley’s latest BBC documentary on bullying, pictured. Dr Max says make no mistake, real bullying is really ‘terrifying’ because it could escalate into something tragic

She had used social media to find out all kinds of things about me and reached out to friends and family. She had even calculated where I lived. When I told my manager about it, it turned out that she had harassed another doctor but nothing had been done about it.

It’s true that many bullies have mental health issues, but their behavior can devastate lives. It must be taken seriously by the police and the criminal justice system.

I have often thought about how ageism is the last bastion of acceptable intolerance. But are things changing? During Milan Fashion Week, Hollywood actors Jeff Goldblum, 69, and Kyle MacLachlan, 62, posed for Prada, leading some to argue that attitudes towards older bodies are changing.

Please! First, these two are men – the fashion world is less forgiving when it comes to older women. But I can’t help but think it’s a cynical ploy. Young people are strapped for cash, unlike the older generation. It is not so much a change in attitude towards the elderly, but rather a question of money.

Another study showed the harmful effects of cannabis. The University of Montreal has found that it impairs memory and decision-making. On a daily basis, I see its negative effects on the services where I work. Although there is an argument for legalizing it, have no illusions that this drug is harmless.

Dr. Max prescribes…

A moment of refreshment

Dr Max Pemberton prescribes a water cooler moment this week, as we head back to the office, to start reconnecting with colleagues – ultimately helping our mental health

Dr Max Pemberton prescribes a water cooler moment this week, as we head back to the office, to start reconnecting with colleagues – ultimately helping our mental health

As we return to the office, let’s do our best to reconnect with our colleagues. Yes, they can be irritating, but we are gregarious animals – interacting with each other is extremely important for fostering friendships and building trust.

Standing around the water fountain is the modern equivalent of sitting around the campfire, chatting and telling stories. It’s about making connections. This, in turn, is vital for our mental health.

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