332 million children worldwide have lived under mandatory or recommended confinement policies for at least nine months since the start of the pandemic. This poses a high risk to their well-being, their physical health and, more worryingly, their mental health.
Lisa Carlson, former president of the American Public Health Association and executive administrator of the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, told CNN in an interview in January 2021 that, “we have supply shortages and economic stress, fear of disease, all of our routines disrupted. We don’t have a vaccine for our mental health like we have for our physical health”.
Today, 37 countries are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and after a year of the Covid-19 pandemic, its members reported that the mental health of their populations had worsened by an average of 45%. In this context, what specifically is happening to the world’s children and young people? How has confinement harmed their psychosocial development? What are the solutions?
THE ROLE OF FÚTBOL MÁS FOUNDATION.
Helping children to understand their emotions can be crucial in coping with their feelings during periods of confinement. Identifying their basic emotions such as joy and sadness are part of their developmental process. However, it is the same lack of emotional education that is presented as one of the causes for the eradication of mental health problems in different age groups, which impacts on family, social and educational environments.
Since the beginning of quarantine, recurrent crying, emotional ups and downs, and frustration over problems have become more common among children.
A study by the Centre for Advanced Research (CIAE) at the University of Chile in 2020 showed that 1 in 5 children have internalising symptoms of depression or anxiety. This figure reflects the need to seek strategies for emotional containment in childhood and to take responsibility as a society for the care of their mental health. These figures are consistent with Ipsos’ international survey, “A year of Covid-19”, which revealed that Chile is second only to Turkey as the country with the second worst mental and emotional health in the world, where 56% say they have worsened in this aspect.
In such a context, parents and guardians of Fútbol Más were asked about the contribution of the organisation in the development of spaces for sport, play and self-care to deal with the stress of confinement. In this regard, 93% said that they have felt close support, even more so than schools, sports clubs and municipalities.
Other countries where Fútbol Más is found listed in the top 30 ranking for mental and emotional health impairment are:
Spain: 51% – Peru: 50% – France: 49% – Mexico: 43%
For this reason, it is very important to know what factors can alert or indicate that a child’s mental health may be deteriorating. Cecilia Moreno, social director of Fútbol Más Mexico comments that, “any change in attitude or behaviour is a warning that something is happening, and that is where I have to ask myself what events have happened recently, and how they could be affecting him or her. Children do not have developed language to the level where they can talk about what is happening to them, that is why we have to observe their daily mood, their reactions. If we observe greater irritability or violence, or extreme reserve, it is a symptom that something is happening”.
SPORT FOR DEVELOPMENT
Fútbol Más Foundation seeks to work together with strategic actors, authorities, leading companies and civil society. The aim is to always put children and their families as a priority in the face of the current health crisis, using sport and play as a tool.
In this context, during the pandemic, Mi Casa, Mi Cancha (My Home, My Playground) was born, with the aim of developing healthy lifestyle habits and play at home. This was done based on UNICEF’s 10 recommendations to promote a healthy daily routine during domestic isolation. This way, through 23 chapters and 8 Green Card Challenges, children can address elements such as healthy eating, hygiene, talking to family and friends, etc.
Víctor Gutiérrez, executive director of Fútbol Más Foundation, invites people to get involved and benefit from the material that the organisation makes available: “the call is to connect between countries. To learn more about Mi Casa, Mi Cancha and to support solutions that have been recognised, that are collaborative and that are created together.”
Today, the content is available in Latin America for UNICEF beneficiaries and is broadcast on public television in Chile, as well as reaching anyone who wants to know the contents through the foundation’s YouTube channel (futbolmasorg). It is the ideal content for those who are in quarantine countries.