The South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP) has warned that continuous civil unrest, looting, and violence gripping parts of the country could see a spike in post-traumatic stress disorder amongst children, even those not directly impacted.

The organisation says children are highly susceptible to fear and feeling overwhelmed as they witness the unsettling current events via social media and the news, and through adult conversations.

SASOP’s board member, Dr Anusha Lachman says the events that we have seen on television or online can very traumatic for a small child who doesn’t completely understand what is happening around them.

Lachman says: “Children really respond as a result of adults around them. So, if adults around them are really feeling helpless, out of control, anxious or overwhelmed and not feeling that they have control of the situation then children will interpret it as if the adults around them are unable to to protect them.”

Lachman adds: “And so what’s problematic with this is that children then don’t have adults to trust, they feel overwhelmed, become more anxious and as a result they become more vulnerable to developing a serious anxiety disorder like post-traumatic stress.”