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Mission, B.C., elementary school principal warns of COVID-19 stigma

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An Elementary school principal in Mission, B.C., has created a video to help parents handle one of the most difficult things during the coronavirus pandemic — explaining things to their children.

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Silverdale Elementary Principal Rob Clark said he recently had a heartbreaking conversation with a young child who had contracted COVID-19 and said they felt ashamed.

“They were concerned that their friends didn’t want to play with them, or if their friends found out … [they] worried about infecting people in their house or seeing other people in their house … not wanting to see people or people not wanting to be with them again,” said Clark.

Read more: COVID-19 first wave hit young people, families with young kids especially hard: B.C. poll

Clark also said that child was scared they were going to die.

“They thought by getting COVID-19 that they could die and they said they are too young for that.”

Clark said with all the restrictions at home and at school, pandemic life is stressful enough for children, but if they’ve contracted the virus, they can feel additional fears and shame.

He said there should be no stigma around having COVID-19.

“We’re very aware of how it affects us, but not always aware of how it affects our little ones. So first, ask a lot of questions and talk to your kids about it, but make sure you are dispelling any myths that are out there about coronavirus as well, because sometimes kids will hear something from their friends and if that’s the only one talking to them about the virus, that’s a problem.”

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Read more: Pre-K kids feeling COVID-19 stress, study finds

Clark is asking parents to talk to their children about why safety measures are in place and why we do certain things at home and at school.

He adds, sometimes parents can’t deal with the pandemic on their own or they might not have all the answers, and he urges parents to reach out for help, if needed.

Click to play video 'Children’s mental health must be a priority: B.C. report' Children’s mental health must be a priority: B.C. report
Children’s mental health must be a priority: B.C. report – Nov 12, 2020

A study last month directed the B.C. government to focus on children’s mental health through the pandemic and COVID-19 recovery and for the government to make it a high priority.

A report completed by the province’s Office of the Representative for Children and Youth and SFU concluded decisions must be made to ensure children “do not experience additional avoidable adversities due to either the pandemic or the public health responses.”

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It called on the government to provide additional necessary prevention and treatment services and ensure that public investments go towards effective interventions.

The review was led by Dr. Charlotte Waddell, the director of the children’s health policy centre at Simon Fraser University and found — anxiety, depression, behavioral problems, and post-traumatic stress may be significantly increased during the pandemic and in its aftermath by as much as tenfold, based on the review.

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