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Impact of Covid-19 on adolescent mental health in Viet Nam and Tanzania

Working paper

Written by Fiona Samuels

Hero image description: Secondary school in Viet Nam (2016) Image credit:Fiona Samuels Image license:CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Since May 2020, ODI and its Vietnamese and Tanzanian country partners have been engaged in a 2.5-year project to address the mental health needs of adolescents in schools, in the community and at the institutional level through the co-creation and implementation of digital and non-digital solutions. As a first phase of this project, we carried out a literature review. This paper contributes to the other outputs published in the literature review. This literature review explores the impacts of Covid-19 on mental well-being and the mental health and psychosocial support needs of adolescents in Viet Nam and Tanzania. It is guided by two research questions:

  • What impact has Covid-19 had on the mental health of adolescents in Viet Nam and Tanzania?
  • What interventions (digital and non-digital) have been used to mitigate or respond to these mental health needs during the pandemic?

Key messages

  • Covid-19 has severely disrupted the lives of children and adolescents across the world, leading to an increase in mental health disorders, particularly anxiety, stress and depressive disorders.
  • School closures and online learning in particular have contributed to feelings of isolation, to a loss of the stability that is typically provided by structured school environments, and to stress over examinations. The rise in social media exposure and screen time has caused an increase in anxiety and depressive disorders as well as disrupted sleep patterns.
  • Age was a factor in most studies of adolescent mental health during the pandemic. Among older adolescents (i.e. those in or who have just graduated from senior secondary school), stress about examinations and uncertainty regarding their futures and job prospects were found to be drivers of mental ill-being.
  • Exposure to abusive household conditions and online child abuse material increased for children in Viet Nam and Tanzania, prompting increased provision of services dedicated to combating domestic and online violence.
  • Governments and non-governmental organisations in both countries adapted to restrictions on providing in-person mental health services by introducing a variety of digital interventions. Telehealth, online education and information, as well as attempts to engage with youth through participatory programmes like digital storytelling were successful, reaching millions of adolescents globally. These digital interventions hold key lessons for post-Covid engagement that must be investigated, particularly to assess their accessibility.

Roshni Chakraborty with Fiona Samuels