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‘Their whole sky has fallen’: more than 167,000 US children have lost a caregiver to Covid

 More than 167,000 children are believed to have lost parents or caregivers to Covid during the pandemic – roughly one in every 450 young people in the US under age 18.

The count updates the October estimate that 140,000 minors had lost caregiving adults to the virus, and is four times more than a springtime tally that found nearly 40,000 children had experienced such loss. In a report titled Hidden Pain, researchers from the COVID Collaborative and Social Policy Analytics published the new total, which they derived by combining coronavirus death numbers with household-level data from the 2019 American Community Survey.

The death toll further underscores the daunting task facing schools as they seek to help students recover not just academically, but also emotionally, from a pandemic that has already stretched 22 months and claimed more than 800,000 American lives. It’s an issue of such elevated concern that Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, on 7 December, used a rare public address to warn Americans of the pandemic’s “devastating” effects on youth mental health. An accompanying 53-page report calls out the particular difficulties experienced by young people who have lost parents or caregivers to the virus.

Bereaved children have higher rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder than those who have not lost parents, according to a 2018 study that followed grieving children for multiple years. They are more than twice as likely to show impairments in functioning at school and at home, even seven years later, meaning these children need both immediate and long-term counseling and support to deal with such a traumatic loss.

“For these children, their whole sky has fallen, and supporting them through this trauma must be a top priority.”

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Source: The Guardian, 22 December 2021


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