CQ doctor at forefront of COVID-19 research
Dr ALEX De Young is one of the leading researchers behind the COVID Unmasked project, a soon to be international study that aims to understand the impact of events like coronavirus on children.
When asked about her decision to pursue child psychology and develop projects like COVID Unmasked, Dr De Young traces her passion all the way back to her hometown, Rockhampton.
As a teenager, Dr De Young would umpire and coach the local youngsters at Souths Hockey Club.
She said this, along with regular babysitting gigs, initiated her love of children and her desire to work with them.
This desire was confirmed in her final year of schooling at Rockhampton Grammar School, when she interviewed a child psychologist for an assignment.
“I remember doing a year 12 project and we had to interview people we were interested in and I interviewed a child psychologist and was like ‘yep, pretty sure that’s what I want to do’,” she said.
Now, years later, Dr De Young is a qualified psychologist and a mother to three young boys.
Watching her children, aged three, five and seven grow has reinforced her interest in the health and wellbeing of young children, an age group she feels can be neglected in psychology.
“We tend to know a lot more about adolescence and adults and how we cope with stressful things but with little kids in particular, there’s been a common misconception that they’re too young to be affected or to remember,” she said.
“But we know that they do experience stress in other ways, so I guess that’s why I’m particularly passionate about raising awareness for this age group.”
Last year, Dr De Young began working with the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Health to help develop the Birdies Tree natural disasters resources.
These resources include a range of storybooks about droughts, floods, cyclones, fires and earthquakes that assist parents, teachers and carers to work through scary experiences with their kids.
Dr De Young and her colleagues were about to commence research into how the recent bushfires and floods had been having an impact on young children when COVID-19 began.
“We thought it was the perfect opportunity to really understand how an event like this affects little kids,” Dr De Young said.
“What are the typical experiences they’re having, what are their responses, what can parents, teachers and carers do to support recovery at this time.”
Thus, COVID Unmasked was born.
Now, Dr De Young and her colleagues are calling on parents and carers to children aged 1-17, all over Australia to take part in the project’s online surveys.
According to Dr De Young, participating in these surveys can be beneficial to families now as well as in the future, after the project has been completed.
“Some people haven’t realised the pandemic is affecting their kids, until they came to answer the questions on this survey,” she said.
In initiating these kinds of discussions, parents and carers can start to better support their children now, even without the resources that COVID Unmasked aims to produce.
In particular, Dr De Young urges those living in regional areas like Rockhampton to participate in the study to ensure no child’s experience is missed.
“We really want to hear the voices of families who are living in rural and remote communities and families from different cultural backgrounds as they often don’t get to share their experiences in research,” she said.
“This will help us to ensure that our recommendations from these findings are relevant for a wide variety of people from different cultures, backgrounds and communities.”
To participate in the 1-5 year olds survey, head to is.gd/covid19_unmasked, or to participate in the 6-17 year olds survey head to https://rebrand.ly/covid19unmasked6up.