The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects across the world. It has led people to isolation thus, increasing loneliness and mental health problems. This has resulted in some people using alcohol as an unhealthy coping mechanism during the pandemic.
According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) alcohol consumption polarized in 2020 during the pandemic. Those who were consuming less either reduced consumption or went alcohol-free while those who were consuming heavily increased their consumption even more. Alcohol harm has been a health crisis for the UK for a long time. The pandemic worsened its effects.
According to data from Public Health England, in 2020, almost 1 in 20 people were consuming alcohol heavily with over 50 units of alcohol within a week. That’s an increase of a third from before the first lockdown. Parents consuming more than 50 units a week has increased from 2.6% before lockdown to 4.2% after lockdown.
The forgotten victims of the alcohol burden are children of parents alcohol problems. Due to lockdown measures and closure of schools and other activities for children many are at home and often have no other choice than to be at home.
- Being given less attention than usual,
- Being put to bed earlier or later than their usual time,
- Having arguments with parents more than normal, and
- Being at the receiving end of increased unpredictability.
These effects are likely to be amplified during the coronavirus crisis with its lockdown measures and increased parental alcohol consumption.
Children of parents or guardians with alcohol use problems are facing far greater harm, including negligence, violence and abuse. In Europe, 16% of all cases of child abuse and neglect are alcohol-related. Many vulnerable children would be stuck at home without options for escaping due to lockdown measures.
Mona Örjes, President of Junis, in her blog post outlined several actions that can be taken to help vulnerable children.
- When doing a risk calculation of closing schools, also take into consideration the potential consequences of vulnerable children being put at even greater risk at home.
- Talk openly with all children in class or in the group – all, because you do not always know who has a hard time at home. Make sure that all children have a way to connect with a trusted teacher or leader.
- Try to find a way to regularly check in with pupils/kids.
- If possible, keep some activities open.
- Provide online fun activities where kids can connect with you and/or each other.
- In many countries there are helplines, helpchats and other forms of online support. Spread information about them to all children. The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA) is one such organization in the UK.