Mental Health During COVID-19: Signs Your Child May Need More Support

BY: American Academy of Pediatrics

 

The ongoing stress, fear, grief, and uncertainty created by COVID-19 pandemic has weighed heavily on children and teens. Many are having a tough time coping emotionally. Many families have also lost jobs and financial stability during the pandemic. At the same time, vital supports such as school, health care services, and other community programs have been interrupted.

Since the start of the pandemic, hospitals have seen more mental health emergencies among kids. Between March and October 2020, the percentage of emergency department visits for children with mental health emergencies rose by 24% for children ages 5-11 and 31% for children ages 12-17. There was also a more than 50% increase in suspected suicide attempt emergency department visits among girls ages 12-17 in early 2021 as compared to the same period in 2019.

Even with the protection of the COVID-19 vaccines now available to children who are old enough for them, pandemic-related stress and traumas may have lasting effects on the developing minds of children and teens. Continue to check in with your child often and watch and listen for signs they are struggling. And remember that your pediatrician is here to help.

  • How is your child coping? Invite your child to talk about how they are feeling. Feeling depressed, hopeless, anxious, and angry could be normal reactions to stress. However, if these feelings are constant and overwhelming—or if they affect your child’s ability to keep doing what they usually do, such as going to school, doing their work, or having fun—these may be signs they need more support during this difficult time.

Keep in mind that younger children may not know how to talk about these feelings, but may show changes in their development or behavior. Teens and young adults, meanwhile, may try to hide their feelings because they don’t want to bother others.

  • How your pediatrician can help? Staying in touch with your pediatrician is more important than ever during this pandemic. If you have any concerns, ask your pediatrician’s office about checking on your child’s social and emotional health. This can be especially important for children facing higher rates of illness or risk from COVID-19, such as children of color, those living in poverty, special health care needs or developmental differences. Children who are refugees and those involved with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems may also be more at risk.

Pediatricians can screen for depression and ask about other concerns like anxiety or trouble coping with stress. The doctor may also ask about these symptoms in other family members, as this can impact your child’s health, and whether they know anyone who has become sick with COVID-19. It’s important to offer your teen some time to talk one-on-one with the pediatrician during the visit to ensure they have the chance to speak as openly as possible. Many pediatricians are also offering telehealth visits during the pandemic.

At Celebration Pediatrics our providers are here to support you and your child as you navigate through the “unseen” hardships that the pandemic caused. Please do not hesitate to give us call at 407-566-9700 to schedule an appointment.

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