This past year our world has been exposed to things we never dreamed would occur due to the COVID-19 pandemic – government lockdowns, schools closed, social isolation, working from home or not working at all, inability to obtain groceries and household goods, fear of the unknown, stress, stress, and more stress! As adults we have had trouble dealing with the stress and focused on solutions to help us, but have enough of us really focused on what this pandemic has done to the mental health of our kids?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the number of children and teenagers seeking help for depression and anxiety during the pandemic has risen across the country. Children ages 5 to 11 seeking emergency room help increased by 24% in 2020. Children ages 12-17 with mental health related emergency room visits increased 31% over the past year. The countrywide data for youth suicides during the pandemic will likely take another year or two to compile, but the statistics occurring at local levels are alarming. In Clark County Nevada, 18 students committed suicide over the past nine months. In Pima County, Arizona, youth suicides were up 67%. Across the country more and more states, counties and cities are reporting increases in youth suicides and suicidal treatment.
The unintended consequences of the social isolation, school closures, and stay-at-home orders are impacting our youth. Think back to your youth and how one year seemed like an eternity to you. For these youth, the extended pandemic restrictions are leaving them feeling hopeless and helpless. What can healthcare providers do to address these growing mental health issues for our youth before it results in another devastating epidemic?
Healthcare facilities and health experts can advocate for the opening of schools since the data supports that. Numerous studies show that schools can safely open and the not impact the spread of the virus, but their closure is negatively impacting the mental health of the children. Healthcare providers can also be proactive and reach out to the parents of their youth patients and provide information to help them recognize the early signs and offer suggestions for engaging their children in activities to improve their mental health. If parents are empowered with the information to know how to help their kids and what signs to watch out for to ensure early intervention, then hopefully these children can be helped.
Tips for Supporting Children’s Mental Health During this Pandemic
- Daily Conversations
Hold conversations daily with your child to gauge their mental status. Discuss their feelings and help them find the positives in their day. Listen to their concerns and grievances, avoid trying to fix it for them. Empathize with them about your feelings and share what you do to help you feel better, so they learn to find their own positives.
- Help Direct their Focus
Rather than allowing them to focus on all the negatives, help direct their thoughts to positive things they can control. Help them find new hobbies and interests to keep them engaged and active.
Signs Your Child May Need Professional Mental Health Assistance
All children will experience short episodes of depression, anxiety, and stress, especially during this pandemic. But if your child is experiencing extended or frequent episodes of any of the following you should speak with your pediatrician.
- Frequent or constant sadness or anger
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of Interest in favorite hobbies or activities
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sleep
- Vocal outbursts or crying
- Trouble concentrating
- Frequent physical complaints (stomach aches and headaches)
- Extreme self-judgement
- Thoughts of death or suicide
By sharing this information with the parents of their youth patients, healthcare providers can proactively address the mental health condition of children. Genesis Medical Management is committed to providing healthcare providers with knowledge and strategies to keep your agency positively engaged with your patients during this pandemic.
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