Study strives to identify children and adolescents in need of psychological help due to social isolation

Fear of COVID-19 and mandatory social isolation can result in psychological consequences and alter emotional states in children and adolescents. Aiming to identify emotional symptoms within these cohorts, researchers from the Health Psychology Department at the Miguel Hernández University of Elche (UMH) are leading a study whose goal is to offer them an online intervention program that helps them enhance their coping skills and reduce emotional problems. 

This work is part of a project funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation that seeks to psychologically evaluate and treat children with emotional problems, and it is led by UMH professors Mireia Orgilés and José Pedro Espada. During the current isolation, a special protocol is going to be activated to identify and monitor cases of risk that might subsequently require psychological assistance.

Any parent may complete the online assessment protocol. It contains questions related to moods, anxiety, problematic behavior, and other situations that influence well-being in minors. The data provided will make it possible to monitor the evolution of their emotional states. The study, which is voluntary and free, requires 10 minutes per week to complete its questionnaires. The parents of children who require psychological instructions will be contacted once the health emergency is over so they can help their children recover their emotional well-being. An online psychological intervention will be offered to them as well.

According to Mireia Orgilés and José Pedro Espada, who are also members of the AITANA research group, emotional problems are frequent in both children and adolescents, but in many cases, young people do not possess the resources to address them. Children are less able to understand what is going on these days, and their coping mechanisms are also inferior to those of adults. Manifestations of greater sensitivity, sadness, fear, concern, irritability, and anxiety may be common in some children and adolescents that begin during the very first days in isolation, while for others, such symptoms may appear weeks later.

Moreover, according to the UMH faculty, the likelihood of the situation of social isolation producing an increase in negative emotional symptoms, such as excessive anxiety and depression in minors, is high. Identifying and monitoring cases of risk will make it possible to provide early care for the symptoms through proven psychological treatment programmes. Any person interested in participating in the study can do so by clicking here.