Home schooling, no year abroad after graduation, hardly any opportunity to party: children and young people have been particularly affected by the restrictions and burdens of the past two years with the corona virus . Mental illnesses also increased dramatically among them during this period.

A young person from Lübeck, who fell ill before the pandemic, dealt with her depression in the play “I’m fine”. It contains a lot of personal experiences from 15-year-old Beeke Luise, who plays a patient in a psychiatric clinic for children and adolescents and who also worked on the screenplay.

Sick of the state of the world

She herself was in such a facility for four months in 2019 due to depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts*. In the fall of 2019, she began writing the play. “There is a lot of prejudice about these diseases and I just want people to be able to talk about it.”

To this day, she doesn’t know exactly why Beeke Luise got so sick. She suspects that the state of the world has simply made her sick, right-wing extremism and climate change in particular are weighing on her. “During the pandemic, of course, I wasn’t doing well either, but there wasn’t that much depression.”

Psychosomatic disorders in children

During the two nationwide lockdowns, researchers at Hamburg University Hospital Eppendorf (UKE) asked children and young people online how they were doing. The results of the surveys showed that many children feel very stressed by the consequences of the pandemic, explains Anne Kaman, associate researcher at the UKE. “We see that around one in three children suffers from a mental health problem during the pandemic. Depressive symptoms, fears and worries also increased compared to the first survey.

Many children worry about what will happen in the future or if they can cope with the demands of school, sometimes they are very sad and also desperate. In young children in particular, psychological stress also manifested itself in psychosomatic complaints. “For example, they often have stomach aches and headaches, are depressed and irritable, and also report sleep problems more frequently.”

Wait two years for a place in therapy

Christine Margarete Freitag from the German Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy (DGKJP) observed something similar. Eating disorders, anxiety disorders and depression in particular have increased. Body and lifestyle ideals conveyed through social media also played a role. “Because children no longer come to rest, no longer take care of themselves and their needs, but are only moved by all these media.”

School at home, no year abroad after graduation, hardly any opportunity to party – the severe restrictions strike many young people on the soul. © Unsplash / Annie Spratt

This is also noticeable in the clinics in Schleswig-Holstein that care for children and young people with mental disorders. For example, in the child and adolescent psychiatry ward of the Friedrich-Ebert Hospital in Neumünster, Schleswig-Holstein, waiting times for outpatient therapy almost doubled to almost two years, as the explained a spokesperson. Even before Corona, there were no offers for a stay in a clinic, explains Christine Margarete Freitag of the DGKJP.

Less taboo among young people?

After all, the taboo surrounding mental illness seems to be crumbling, at least among young people. At least that is the view of Lübeck child and adolescent therapist Verena Spiekermann. She advised the young people and the director on the work of the play “I’m Fine”. But she also believes that many young people are often unaware that they are talking about mental illness. Often they would simply talk about their symptoms: “I’ve had such a hard time falling asleep the last few days, I don’t feel like it.”

“I’m Fine” is not easy material – and after the performance there are still some questions from the audience for the director and the young actors, including Beeke Luise. For example: How can I help when friends have mental health issues? Is it a breach of trust if I involve adults when my girlfriend shares suicidal thoughts? Even after the Q&A session, the young people are still engaged in lively discussions in the foyer of the theater hall.

Learn to manage negative emotions

Beeke Luise is proud of what she has accomplished with her play. After her time in child and adolescent psychiatry, she entered outpatient therapy. The discussions helped her. To this day, she still sees her therapist from time to time. Making his medical history public and answering questions from the audience after theatrical performances – that’s important to Beeke Luise.

Although she is better, the dark thoughts have not completely disappeared. But she learned to manage her feelings. And she knows what she can do to feel better: “Things that make you happy. Distracting, especially talking to people helps a lot.

*Help offers for depressed, suicidal people and their loved ones: If you find yourself in a seemingly hopeless situation, do not hesitate to accept help. Help is also available from the telephone advice service in Germany on 0800-1110111 (free) and 0800-1110222 (free) or online at https://www.telefonseelsorge.de. There is a list of national counseling centers at https://www.suizidprophylaxe.de/hilfsangebote/adressen.

Subscribe to our Weekender newsletter!

The most important cultural debates and recommendations of the week, straight to your inbox every Friday.

Thank you for signing up!

We have sent you an email with a confirmation link.

If you do not see your registration confirmation email in your inbox, please check your spam folder.

Happy to see you again!

You are already subscribed to this newsletter.