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Depression, anxiety in children jumped during pandemic, study shows

Children forced to quarantine multiple times were more likely to exhibit violence toward friends and family and outbursts of anger, according to National Council for the Child

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Children going into 1st grade attend school on their first day of the new academic year at the Pola school in Jerusalem, on September 1, 2021. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Children going into 1st grade attend school on their first day of the new academic year at the Pola school in Jerusalem, on September 1, 2021. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Children in Israel living through the COVID-19 pandemic are seeing rising rates of depression, anxiety and physical violence towards those around them, according to a report released by an advocacy group Tuesday.

From 2019 to 2021, there was a 39 percent rise seen in children ages 12-17 diagnosed with depression, a 33% rise in those diagnosed with anxiety and a 20% rise in those diagnosed with stress and emotional disorders, the National Council for the Child said.

The data came from statistics provided by the Maccabi health care provider.

Officials and activists have long warned about the deleterious effects on children from forced lockdowns, quarantines and remote learning or school cancellations.

According to the report, many parents said their children who were forced to quarantine — either due to infection or exposure to COVID — exhibited signs of violence toward family and friends.

The report claimed that 16-17% of children who were forced to quarantine showed violent behavior, as did 31% of those who had to quarantine more than once.

And 59% of children who quarantined multiple times experienced outbursts of anger or rage, compared to 43% of those forced to quarantine once and 36% of those who did not quarantine, the report states.

There was a 43% jump from 2020 to 2021 in the number of students believed to be at risk for suicide who were provided treatment by Education Ministry psychologists, from 829 to 1,184.

According to the organization, 31.2% of children were living in poverty in 2021, compared to 28.7% in 2020 and 29.2% in 2019. In the ultra-Orthodox world, 49% of children were living below the poverty line, compared to 50.2% of children in Arab households.

National Council for the Child CEO Vered Windman (left) presents President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog with the organization’s 2021 report, on January 25, 2022 in Jerusalem. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Vered Windman, the executive director of National Council for the Child, presented the report to President Isaac Herzog at the president’s residence in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

Windman said that the past two years of the COVID pandemic have caused “severe and dramatic harm to children.”

“It’s time to talk about the social booster,” she said, referring to calls for the government to address knock-on effects of the pandemic with the same vigor as repeated vaccination campaigns. “Education, protection and child care systems are the ones that urgently need a booster now. For children and youth there is no more important and urgent step than that.”

She called on the government to implement a “comprehensive and budgeted national plan… to get children and youth out of the ongoing crisis.”

Herzog said he supports the call for “a long-term government program to deal with and try to heal and repair the damage done to our children.”

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