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The abandoned generation


Dr Shaba Nabi


The current pandemic has amplified the increasing polarisation permeating human life.

On the one side, lockdown sceptics are denying the existence of a crisis within the NHS, posting images that show ambulances have queued outside emergency departments every year under Tory rule.

On the other side, defenders of the NHS post images of nurses with the battle wounds of FFP3 masks, and demand we lock down the country for the entire year.

Although the world feels safer and easier when you are in a camp or a tribe, life is rarely that simple. It is perfectly reasonable to be worried about the impact of lockdowns on the economy, education and mental health, while also accepting the very real threat of Covid-19. Both are significant risks, yet so far we have been incapable of developing a strategy that treats them as equally important.

I have spent most of my Sunday ensuring my Year 10 son knows the difference between stratified and quota sampling and can use Darwin’s theories of evolution to explain the concepts behind Jekyll and Hyde.

With his gaming computer and twin screens, I am acutely aware of his privilege, and wonder how other parents are coping with supporting their kids. The organisational skills required to keep on top of home schooling are challenging even for someone like me, who is used to juggling four roles within a portfolio career. Many less-fortunate children have fallen behind, not only with their education, but also their social skills, and we will reap what we have sown in the years ahead. 

Aside from educational regression, the mental health impact on our children is significant.

Boredom, loneliness and isolation lead to issues such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders. Schools should be last to close and first to open, yet we have seen a reversal of this in the UK. Domestic violence, described as the ‘shadow pandemic’ by the UN, has increased by at least 20%, in many cases within households involving children.

What is most heartbreaking is the lack of timely support available for children. A CAMHS referral in my area requires a child to be floridly psychotic before acceptance, and advises support from a variety of third-sector organisations, which themselves have a current wait time of several months. Those with the financial means can fork out for private therapists, leaving the less well off to deteriorate further, increasing the health inequalities thrown into stark focus by Covid-19.

In the past year, I have seen a 12-year-old patient go from being a confident, outgoing performer, to suffering disabling panic attacks. Her reading age has also regressed by around two years. Such issues are being replicated in the young across the country, but it’s less sexy to broadcast this than ICU footage.

We are responsible for creating a lost generation and I am convinced that future Year 10 students will be studying the history of this pandemic and reflecting on how society let down its young people.

Dr Shaba Nabi is a GP trainer in Bristol. Read more of Dr Nabi’s blogs online at pulsetoday.co.uk/nabi

This piece originally appeared in the February print issue of Pulse

READERS' COMMENTS [3]

Alice Hodkinson 7 February, 2021 11:12 am

Dead right Shaba
I am increasingly irritated by non-essential workplaces, including in the NHS, full of people not distancing, and not wearing masks. This is why my children are not at school and it is utterly utterly wrong.

Patrufini Duffy 8 February, 2021 2:54 pm

Responsible – yes, the key word of life. Meaning the ability to respond. Which is non-existent. I am weirdly (I know), very grateful for covid for many reasons – it has shattered society and stopped its blinded, auto-pilot path – questions are everywhere now, and light falls on the cracked mirror. Inequality, racism, leaderships, double-standards, poverty, human population, nature, greed, self-preservation, consumerism, privelege, front-line, corruption. What Governments are not ready for, is what is yet to come, you are right. *And also, we must remember, this situation has made some people very very comfortable and very cunning, and that strata of society have secured themselves pleasantly. What they’ve done I do not know, but I know they’ve done the deals and shaken the hands, and we should search for the truth of what is being planned behind our backs, whilst we concern ourselves with a vaccine, food and education.

Merlin Wyltt 9 February, 2021 12:03 pm

I’m not easily shocked or surprised after so many years working as a GP. However, I can not understand why the service for children’s mental health is so woeful. It is pretty much non existent in my area. 18 month waits are overly optimistic. Often the children I refer in their teens are adults by the time an appointment comes through. The information required on referrals is deliberately complicated to try and dissuade a referral. There is no IAPT for children. We can not prescribe anything in the way that we could for an adult. There is no uproar in the media. Just very miserable children receiving no help or support.
The parents who can’t wait any longer and go privately are paying £500 an hour to see the only Child Psychiatrist in the area.

Dr Shaba Nabi describes “The Abandoned Generation”. Thank goodness for you.