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Mental health & wellbeing

COVID-19 Research for kids

Mental health & wellbeing

COVID-19 is presenting major mental health challenges for kids and families. At MCRI, we’re drawing on our strength in population-based research into child mental health to investigate and address the short, medium and long -term impacts of the virus and the lockdown for children and families.

Funding required
Measuring the benefits of COVID-19 public health measures on community wellbeing

Australia’s public health measures to limiting the spread of COVID-19 have been spectacularly successful in comparison to other countries. But they have not come without additional burdens.
Our community health team will conduct a qualitative longitudinal study using existing cohorts to evaluate the impact of these measures on the physical and mental wellbeing, risk of family violence and substance abuse and financial stability of children and their families in the community at large in Victoria.
Combined with our existing longitudinal cohort studies, new school-based surveys and online community polls will form a ‘virtual observatory’ to identify the immediate, and potential medium and long term societal, mental health and economic impacts on children and families that can help inform policy responses now and in the recovery phase.
Crucial to the success of this observatory will be the addition of the GenV project, to monitor the health and wellbeing of every child born in Victoria. GenV starts later in 2020, head to the website to find out more.

Project Leads: Professor Sharon Goldfield, Professor Melissa Wake

Funding needed
Preventing long term societal and mental health impacts on children and families

We know from previous natural disasters and other epidemics and pandemics that there is often a significant and lasting impact on the health of children. With the COVID-19 pandemic driving social restrictions, a severe recession and most likely a long wait for a vaccine, we hold significant concerns for many Australian families and their children.

MCRI is uniquely placed to monitor the societal, mental health and economic impacts on children and families during and after this pandemic. With Australia’s largest collection of existing longitudinal studies, MCRI can access up to 5,000 children and families across ages to collect rich data and robustly evaluate the impact of COVID-19.

We have devised a series of research projects to investigate the impact of public health measures on the wellbeing, mental health and financial stability of children and their families. We are particularly concerned about:

  • increasing rates of mental health problems amongst parents and their children especially those most affected by financial hardship
  • the impact of interrupted education for all children and adolescents from the foundational first years to those in their senior years
  • which families in the community are most vulnerable psychosocially and which families are resilient, and why

Understanding these short, medium and long term impacts on children and families is critically important both during and after this pandemic. This work will help enable us to provide evidence informed advice to governments and community agencies.

Research completed
A guide to safely re-opening Victorian school and early learning centres

COVID-19 cases in schools and childcare are mainly driven by community transmission and off-site learning should be a last resort, a new report has found.

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) has prepared a COVID-19 in Victorian Schools Report at the request of the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Department of Education and Training (DET). The report recommends schools and childcare centres should re-open as soon as community transmission of coronavirus falls and stays low.

Key Findings 

• Of one million students enrolled, 337 (0.03 per cent) had an infection linked to a school outbreak
• 113 known events (involving a single case or more) in childcare with 234 cases potentially acquiring COVID-19 via events linked to childcare.
• 1,635 infections were linked with childcare and schools in some way, out of a total of 19,901 infections in Victoria. Cases associated with schools accounted for eight per cent of all infections in Victoria 
• Testing, tracing and isolation within 48 hours of a notification is the most important strategy to prevent an outbreak. In Victoria, the average time between confirmation of the first case in childcare or school and education provider closure was two days. This timely response prevented outbreaks from occurring as 66 per cent of   outbreaks in schools involved just a single infection in a staff member or student and 91 per cent involved fewer than 10 cases
• Of 139 infected staff and 373 infected students who may have acquired COVID via a childcare or school outbreak, eight (four staff and four students) were admitted to hospital and all recovered 
• Infections in childcare and schools were rarely linked to infections in the most vulnerable population, the elderly
• If the first case was a child aged 0-5 years, an outbreak (two or more cases) was very uncommon

To read the executive summary of the PDF iconCOVID-19 in Victorian Schools report

Project Leads: Professor Sharon Goldfeld, Professor Fiona Russell