The part Kenny show on news talk with Marter private network during current restrictions. Don't ignore your health concerns. Our expert team is ready to help. I've got to read you a piece that was in the Irish Examiner late yesterday, it goes, We are all familiar with the phrase canary in the coal mine. Until as late as 1986, these beguiling little birds occupied miners deep in the coal mines, chirping endearingly. Silence indicated they had succumbed to carbon monoxide.
And it was time for everyone to get out of the toxic environment.
And quickly, I'm noticing a new trait in my children. Silence. I notice it in my young patients, too. Gone are the sounds of giggling, bickering, squealing and shouting.
I can't remember the last time I heard a full throated belly laugh from a child. Dr. Nirav Lynch, good morning.
Good morning, Jonathan, how are you? I'm good, this kind of stopped me in my tracks last night when I read it because I kind of recognized it in my own children as well.
And yes, there's still laughter and the still fun and they still beat the living daylights out of each other when they need to.
But there is a silence and it's worrying. It is concerning for sure, you know, I suppose working in pediatrics, thankfully, we haven't seen much covid know we have seen some, but what we have seen is a lot of mental health issues. Children are presenting with severe anxiety symptoms that are associated with anxiety, headaches, tummy pain, dizziness. And children are disengaging from their online learning. They're becoming lethargic. They're less physically active. Their health is suffering both physically and mentally.
And, yes, the violence is there. You know, for after Christmas, when the numbers were high, I wasn't doing in-person clinics. I was speaking with parents on the phone rather than seeing children in person. But I started up my in-person clinics again in February. And the children are just so quiet. You know, they sit quietly next to their parents. They don't engage. And it's difficult, obviously, because I'm in a mask and people and things like that.
But whereas before they would have explored the room and looked for the toys and asked for a sticker, they're just completely silent and it is a noticeable difference. Why are they silent if. Well, there's lots of things, obviously, the younger children, because of lockdown and look, I am not saying that lockdown is not necessary because it was absolutely the right thing and it has to be done when it was done. But because of lockdown and the younger children who are in that stage where they should be socializing and starting to play with the children and interact, they haven't had that opportunity.
So they you know, the only people that they're really interacting with are their siblings and their parents. And an outing, for example, to my office is a completely alien sort of novelty for them. You know, child that's for now has spent a quarter of his or her life in lockdown and probably doesn't remember really leaving the house and going out and meeting people. And then when you get to the older children, you have obviously the lack of socialization as well.
But also worry because, you know, they hear the news, they scan the headlines on the newspapers. They they ingest news and they feel anxious about it. They're watching their parents who may be struggling either emotionally or financially or possibly losing their jobs or trying really hard to work from home and manage home schooling. So there's a lot of stress in households and that makes children quiet and withdrawn as well.
Is this a kind of collective trauma? It's not a war. And I don't equate it with the war because a war obviously has much more physical consequences.
But is it a form of a psychological war that we're living through? It certainly feels that way, doesn't it, Johnson? You know, but it feels that way sometimes, yes. So for children. Yes, absolutely. You know, there are children in much, much worse positions than children here in Ireland. But even within Ireland, there were children who are in much, much worse position than others. So if you think about it, you know, the assumption is that, you know, all of these children will be able to access their school online.
That works on the assumption that children have access to Wi-Fi, have access to a quiet space, have access to the technology. That's not necessarily the case. So within this collective trauma, there are some layers of even more trauma. And it's something that has been reflected in studies that have been done throughout the world. So China obviously were the first to experience covid-19 and they've done some extensive psychological studies on on their children. And 40 percent of them are presenting with symptoms of depression and anxiety in the adolescent age group out of the massive amount of children who are dealing with the significant mental health issue here in Ireland, where we're currently gathering the data.
There was a study that came out from NY Maynooth, which was more of a narrative from parents and children. And I would recommend anybody to read it because it just it's a litany of real sadness. And I think that's what our children are feeling, that with sadness and what is very important for any population, I think, is to be able to work towards a common goal and to have a finish line in sight and what it feels like for parents and for children and for teachers to who, to be fair, loved children.
And that's the way they do what they do. And they've worked so hard. But there's no finish line in sight and it's very, very hard to keep running when there's no finish line in sight.
Mm hmm. Parents parents are struggling as well, as you rightly listed the things that that are causing us to struggle. And it's universal. This isn't one group escaping us and others suffering. Everybody is feeling the effects of this, but knowing that their children are being affected as well, that that's having a tough toll. That's taking a toll on parents. What advice can you as a pediatrician who sees the effects of this, what can parents do? I mean, how do we how do we make them happy?
How do we make them laugh? How do we, you know, not become overly critical of the amount of time that might spend watching a YouTube screen or are not playing the games that we want them to play?
Mm hmm. It depends on the age of the child. So for younger children, obviously, attention is, you know, so giving giving a child your your attention and play and getting them out is enough. You know, it's it's it's that's probably the easiest group to deal with in terms of looking after their emotional health. The school children, it's much harder because as they get older, they rely less on us for comfort and entertainment and more on their peers.
And obviously at the moment, it's impossible for them to interact in person with their peers. You now, some families and groups have set up WhatsApp or Zoome calls for children to interact. But the kids are getting quite sick of that really.
And they get nothing from. I find that get nothing from it. It was a novelty at the start. But they can't play the way they want to play with their friends on Tsou.
They're not their children are tactile, like they're learning all the time. So they're learning through their actions. So, you know, they're very much looking, moving machines. You know, they need to touch and feel and interact with each other in person. And currently, obviously, that's not possible. And I suppose, you know, what drove me to write the article really was that I as a as a parent and also as a pediatrician, I'm feeling an increasing anxiety around getting children back to school and some sort of routine and some sort of in-person interaction, even though they have to socially distance and wear masks and so on, that the ability in whatever way we can manage it to have children in classrooms interacting with their teachers in person will relieve a huge amount of stress.
And to be honest, it doesn't really matter whether that happens on the 1st of March or on the 1st of April or even on the 1st of May, as long as we have a goal that we're able to work towards. I think psychologically for parents and children and teachers, that's the important thing. And it's to make the effort so schools won't just become safe because the numbers are are coming down. You know, the people rightly are rightly concerned that you may have transmission within classrooms.
Schools have to be actively made safe. You know, the infrastructure that we have for our schools in this country is antique at best. And, you know, like corporate has shown a spotlight on all of the creaky infrastructure we have in this country. But the schools have to be made safe and there needs to be inventive thinking. You know, look at all the mega clubs, all the empty rugby clubs, all the empty golf clubs. Why can't they be used?
Why can't the. Some imagination and ingenuity put in to opening schools. We're going to talk often about the schools reopening, we're told, a phased reopening from the 1st of March with maybe the junior and the senior infants going back and possibly 50 years.
That's not set in stone. That's going to be dependent on Nevitt advice. But in your opinion, is keeping schools closed causing more harm than the terrible virus that forced it in the first place?
I think the schools had to close when they did in January for sure. I think we urgently need to get children back to school now. And that's not just me talking. That's the European Center for Disease Control. That's the that's the general consensus, you know, within world leaders that schools should be open as soon as possible and they should be not just passively becoming safe because of dropping numbers, but being actively made safe so that children and teachers can safely return to the classroom.
All right, Dr. Steve Lynch, consultant pediatrician at the Bond School Hospital in court. That article is in The Examiner today, and it's an Irish Examiner doc. Thank you so much for joining us this morning and giving us your thoughts just.