Meg St-Esprit’s seven-year-old son had always been wary of germs. If a classmate “licked the end of a marker and put it back in the bin,” she says, he’d avoid the markers for the rest of the day.
But the constant barrage of COVID-19 news this past year amplified those fears to a fever pitch. “He’s a ball of anxiety,” says St-Esprit, a mother of four in Pennsylvania. “He got to the point where, within our house, he was like, ‘I don’t want a sibling to touch me because they might give me corona.’”
St-Esprit’s son’s anxiety, fueled by COVID-19, is far from unique. In a survey published by the American Psychological Society this fall, more than 75 percent of adults polled cited the pandemic as a significant source of anxiety; a CDC review released in November reported that the proportion of mental-health-related ER visits for five-to-11-year-olds increased by 24 percent over the last 12 months.