Mental health impact of Long Covid

We asked young people with Long Covid and parents caring for young people with Long Covid about the emotional impact it has had on their lives. Some of these parents also have Long Covid themselves. In this section we cover:

  • Not feeling like yourself
  • Anxiety and the impact of isolation
  • Feeling different from your friends
  • Depression and self-harm (discusses suicidal thoughts)
  • Support for young people’s emotional well being

Not feeling like yourself

Many of the young people talked about how being physically unable to do some of the things they used to enjoy, like going to school, meeting up with friends, and engaging in sports and hobbies, had a negative impact on their mental health, especially when they didn’t know when it was going to return to normal. Evie says, “I can’t do the things that I love and I can’t do the things that make me feel like me.” Amira feels sad that she can no longer go swimming.

Not being able to do the things she used to enjoy has had a negative impact on Evie’s mental health. She says she doesn’t feel like herself anymore and describes it as “like a spiral of just not feeling great.”

Anxiety in social situations

The parents we spoke to also commented on the effect that not being able to enjoy activities has had on their children’s mental well-being. Maryam says her children who were “really, really happy children” sometimes feel angry and anxious since developing Long Covid.

James says that not being at school for so long because of Long Covid negatively affected his social skills. Some days being back at school he feels fine, other days he doesn’t want to talk to anyone.

Feeling different from your friends

Long Covid had an impact on young people’s ability to meet up with their friends which affected their emotional wellbeing. Evie feels “left out because all my friends are at school or they’ve all gone out, and, you know, it’s really hard.” Ben said it can be easy to lose contact with friends when you’re off school for a long time and trying to keep that contact going is important. Evie felt her friends didn’t understand about Long Covid and how much it affected her everyday life 24/7. Deidre says her daughter gets upset and sad sometimes that she has Long Covid while her friends who had Covid recovered quickly and bounced back.

Depression and self-harm

Some of the young people we talked to felt very low, had self-harmed or even considered suicide because of the impact of Long Covid on their life. Parents were sometimes aware that their children had these feelings.

Lucy said that Long Covid has had a profound effect on her mental health, eventually resulting in her self-harming and being diagnosed with depression. She says “…it’s been very tough mentally.” When Lucy first saw the GP and paediatrician they didn’t think that depression and Long Covid could be connected.

Lucy A’s GP and paediatrician didn’t think that depression and Long Covid could be connected whereas her therapist did.

Support for young people’s emotional wellbeing

Parents and young people said that there was an urgent need for more support for the mental health of young people with Long Covid (and the parents who care for them). Beth’s daughter gets medication for her lung issues but she says no one seems to be paying attention to the mental side of things.

Beth says her daughter’s mental health is suffering as she is not able to do the things she used to do. She says it’s caused anxiety and is frustrated that no one is helping.

Parents talked about some of the ways they tried to support their children’s mental well-being; through planning surprises and treats, laughter, pets, and helping them to connect with other young people who had Long Covid. Deidre tried to talk to her daughter about how she is feeling but she gets upset. She thinks connecting with another teenager with Long Covid will help. Colin’s daughter had been an active Irish dancer before getting Long Covid. He arranged for a friend of his to organise a dancing event to try to cheer her up. He thinks a combination of activity and anti-depressants started to lift her mood.

Colin was worried about his daughter’s emotional state and the possibility of an “awful negative spiral” and says he felt he needed to intervene.

For more on the emotional impact of Long Covid on the wider family see ‘Emotional and psychological impact of Long Covid’ and for information on the mental health impact in adults, see ‘The Emotional impacts of having Long Covid symptoms’.