Background: The mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantining on children and young people (CYP) living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) has yet to be fully comprehended. CYP in LMICs are at utmost risk, given the COVID-19-related restrictions and social distancing measures, resulting in reduced access to school-based services for nutritional and mental health needs. This study examined mental health of CYP during the first COVID-19 lockdown in Zambia and Sierra Leone. Method: A total of 468 disabled and disadvantaged CYP aged 12 to 25 completed a planning tool that comprised the short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (SWEMWBS), as well as open-ended questions covering social connectedness, physical distancing and educational challenges during the lockdown. The community coaches screened individuals and families who could be eligible to receive emergency aid, and based on a convenience sample following distribution of aid, recipients were invited to complete the planning tool. Results: The data showed that participants in the global south have increasing anxieties and fears centred on accessing offline educational resources and income loss in the family effecting food security and their ability to return to education. Mean (SD) SWEMWBS scores for all participants in Zambia and Sierra Leone, were 19.61 (3.45) and 21.65 (2.84), respectively. Mental well-being scores were lower in females, children aged 12–14 and participants with two or more disabilities. Factors significantly associated with poor mental wellbeing in the sample were: type of disability, nationality, peer relationships, connection to others during the pandemic, knowledge about COVID-19, worry about the long-term impact of COVID-19, and the types of self-isolating. Conclusion: The study shows that participants who self-reported low levels of COVID-19 health literacy also scored low on the mental wellbeing self-assessment. Yet, despite undoubted limited resources, these CYP are doing well in identifying their needs and maintaining hope in the face of the problems associated with COVID-19 in countries where stigma persists around mental ill-health.
- Children and young people mental health
- COVID-19 pandemic
- Cross-cultural study
- Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)
- Sierra Leone
ASJC Scopus subject areas